Alliance Française de Chicago: High School Cybercafé

Immersive Cultural Study Space for Teens
Designed specifically for high school students, the Cybercafé learning center encourages interactive French-language acquisition.

A dreary mezzanine was transformed into an appealing multimedia nook in which teens congregate. The Cybercafé is a sophisticated environment, akin to a hip dining space, where the richness of Francophone culture is demonstrated through design and interaction.

Teens strolling in with overloaded backpacks settle in on the inviting L-shaped bench with built-in storage underneath for possessions. The environment offers teens the control they desire. They can easily shape the space to their needs, by moving around high-tech stools and teardrop tables, all on casters, effortlessly creating individual workstations or collaborative learning zones. During facilitated lessons, students can gather together and afterwards, rearrange themselves into small study groups.

Since the Cybercafé was designed to take advantage of wireless technologies, laptops are brought along or checked out. The large projection screen works with video, laptop connections and hooks into the cable connection for France’s TV 5. Movable screens are dual-purpose: the fabric-covered side shades the room for projection, while the flip side is perfect for large-scale dry-erase use. A series of clocks with transparent faces, all set to Francophone nations, is superimposed on a large, write-on world map, an immediate atlas of global proportions.

Within the Cybercafé, multiple opportunities to record, research, show, speak, demonstrate, and share exist; all of which encourage teens to expand their horizons. Students create videos, perform hip-hop or Karaoke songs, virtually connect with other teens at Alliance Sister Schools, or take online tours of the Louvre. They are comfortable here because it has been designed with their input and with them in mind. The Cybercafé is an immersive environment supportive of the practice of language skills while presenting opportunities to discover culture in ways that teens find relevant.

Owner: Alliance Française de Chicago
Architecture, Interior Architecture & Exhibit Design
: Architecture Is Fun, Inc.
Location
: Chicago/Illinois
Status
: Completed 2002
Photography
:  © Doug Snower Photography