JCYS Lillian Lutz Recreation Center

Creating Magic in the Face of Many Competing Demands

1195 Half Day Road, Highland Park, Illinois


Hutter Architects began a relationship with Jewish Council for Youth Services several years prior to this project through Hutter’s extensive experience with school and preschool facilities. JCYS operates several preschool facilities as a part of their children’s programming and Hutter Architects had designed phased renovations for two other Lutz Family Centers. During this time period, Hutter Architects also designed the new Sacks Dining Hall for physically challenged children at Camp Henry Horner in Ingleside, Illinois.


During the time of these projects, Hutter heard JCYS talking about another one of their facilities. The subject was the The Max Davidson Swim and Tennis Club on Half Day Road where the outdoor portion of the day camp and other important kids’ summer programs were hosted. The conversation was: “What can we do with this building?” The plumbing was problematic and the second floor roof structure was rotting, yet the facility was an important icon in the hearts and minds of thousands of people who had grown up going there. They had fond memories of this facility and they wanted their own children to enjoy this legacy of summer magic at JCYS. Restoration sounded like an answer but very little of the building infrastructure was worthy of restoration. The image of the building did not reflect the fun, learning, and high caliber of children’s programming that took place within its walls.

JCYS wasn’t sure what form the improvements should take, and they approached Hutter Architects about what to do with the building. A key challenge was that the programs offered by the Lutz Family Center placed enormous demands on the flexibility of the new design: On summer weekdays a stream of busses from several JCYS day camps rotates children in and out for their swim and sport time. During weekday evenings and weekend days, the site hosts open sessions where families meet for casual dinner, conversation, swimming, and play. An additional challenge was that the site also needed to be desirable for party rentals on weekend evenings with a warm atmosphere conducive to relaxing gatherings. Finally, there was possibility for the building to augment an after-school program with dancing and arts and crafts.


Hutter Architects considered the site, potential budgets and schemes with an eye toward providing a range of options of differing magnitudes to help JCYS determine the optimum solution to its many challenges and requirements.

Working with JCYS, the design evolved. Ultimately JCYS chose a one-story scheme with one flexible multi-use program space between two locker rooms. To make the most efficient use of the budget, a balance of new and reused existing materials and structures were utilized. For example, since the existing locker rooms had been constructed within thick concrete walls that would be very expensive to remove, these concrete walls were reused as part of the renovation and then covered with siding to match the new walls. As a money and energy saving feature, only the office was air conditioned while the central program space is cooled with natural screened ventilation beneath the wide overhangs.

Overall, the building was crafted to be warm, inviting, and of the high quality for which JCYS is known. Additionally the Lutz family wished for the building to be reminiscent of camp. Hutter Architects wholeheartedly agreed with this approach, and designed the building to capture camp’s rustic, woodsy, kinesthetic experience. In response to this goal the interior program space was designed to mimic an exterior space with shingled siding on the walls and a concrete floor so the entire interior program space could be hosed off. In order to create an entirely different mood for evening events, soft, dimmable indirect lighting highlights the spacious vaulted ceiling and the warmth of the stained wood deck boards above.


The Lillian Lutz Recreational Center was completed and opened in the spring of 2011. At the Center’s opening party the Donor exclaimed that she was extremely pleased and also amazed at the transformation of the old building.

Hutter Architects always endeavors to define the essential emotive aspects of a space or building and then use those as a spring board for the design. What do we want people to feel while they are here? What impression do we want them to leave with? The answers to these questions were not viewed in a vacuum as the very real issues of budget and structure come into play. The process is not to design a building form and then say, how will we hold this up? But rather Hutter allows the structural system and form to grow together out of contemplating the spirit of the end result. The process is to think about all of the building components together, first generally, and then becoming more specific, repeatedly circling back to reconsider each component at a greater and greater depth with each pass.

Hutter Architects is especially adept at projects with existing conditions and adaptive re-use. We understand the economics of where to re-use and where to say it’s not economically feasible or otherwise undesirable. Our extensive experience with foundation systems, sub-standard soils, and the integration of pre-engineered building components all contributed to make this JCYS project a huge success.

Another prime driver of success on this project was communication. Detailed communication about the scope of work during the design process helped assure that JCYS was aware of the details of their building. On the part of JCYS, numerous and consistent meetings with the stakeholders within the agency helped keep everyone knowledgeable about what was in the scope of the project and what, due to budgetary restrictions, was not. Hutter Architects kept close track of this process during the design phase with the editing of a written outline specification document that was very frequently updated and distributed very similar to a weekly newspaper of current events during the design process.