Redesigning My School Cafeteria


In my school, Latin, the cafeteria is not only a place to eat food, it is also a communal space. With delicious food and welcoming staff, the cafeteria at Latin seems perfect. But it has its flaws; the cafeteria is small and often gets crowded during lunch periods due to the poorly designed traffic pattern. Imagine a forty minute lunch period where you have to stand in line for twenty to twenty-five minutes just to order your food, then you have to walk back through all the people waiting in line just to get to the register, and after you pay you have to find a seat somewhere in the confined space. Because of the poor design, people always end up showing up late to class, so when I had the opportunity to address the problem I jumped right in!



The Site

Just to get you familiar with the space I’ve attached some photos…


These pictures were taken when no one was in here except for the one when there were a couple people in line for food.  As you can see even with roughly twenty people it can get packed.

The left is a floor plan of just the cafeteria while the right shows the cafeteria and the library connected, I flipped the picture upside down so they could be oriented the same way.

A. The entrance to the cafeteria has the stairs represented by the semi-circles which crowds the space even more than it needs too because it takes up so much space in that little area. 

B. This is where everyone stands in line to get food (around that little island), clearly, the space can get crowded when half the school is standing there to get lunch in that short period of time.

C. In this area this is where people stand in line to pay, this whole are is flawed because there are people coming in through the entrance, people walking to stand in line to pay, and then people standing in line which creates a ton of traffic.

D. & E. These are both of the seating areas in the cafeteria, usually, the upperclassmen sit in the D area and the underclassmen sit in the E section.

The red arrows indicate the flow pattern, where people walk to get food and then go to the register, as you can see in the site plan people would be running into each other.

These two photos above are examples of floor plans, something that we learned about in Architecture this semester. They are designs that represent the space on a very simple level: simply showing the outlines of the space with thick and dark lines to represent walls and objects in the space.




User Needs (What are other people looking for?)

Before I got into the design, I brought up the idea to some friends and the facility people at my school just to get a sense of what other people think. I was thrilled to see that many people loved the idea, and had some suggestions too. Someone said that because of the way the seating is designed, everyone seems to be separated, either by grade, by students or by teachers. Another student said when asked about what the cafeteria is like, It’s not always just a place to eat, it’s also a lounge and a space to do work when the whole school isn’t there.” Although the seating arrangements were never intentionally set up to be that way they somehow managed to. Everyone agreed that it needed to be bigger and it needed a quicker system for getting food, but I got some inspiration for my idea when a friend suggested opening it up to the library. All this feedback was stuff I had to take into account when going through the process. So I came up with the following need statement

Need Statement: Design a new cafeteria, with an open floor design, spaces for all users, workspaces, and a better system for ordering food.




Design Inspirations

I was inspired by the Leroy Neiman Center, the cafeteria at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The space is very open and has an eating section as well as a lounging area that flows into the cafeteria which was the design I was looking for. This was particularly appealing because I found the space to be very similar to Latin. With natural light coming in through the south side, and the way the space flowed into one even though they were two separate spaces, I thought I could design my school’s cafeteria similarly.



Below Is another example of a floor plan, this time of the Leroy Neiman Center, hopefully, this gives you a nice representation of what the space looks like. (The perimeter of this  cafeteria space is about 180’x80′)




The Process

The process consisted of the following things, sketching, collecting info, modeling, and tons of thinking.

Sketches: This was sort of my final sketch idea, that I decided to go with. On top, #1 is a bubble diagram, and on bottom #2 is sort of a floorplan.

(For those who can’t read my sloppy handwriting…

#1 from left to right: kitchen area, pay stations, barriers, lounge and eating area, open up to library area.

#2 from left to right: kitchen area, teacher sections, cafeteria eating section (students), conference room, lounging and eating area.)

Collecting info: This wasn’t always easy I wanted to get a lot of feedback when coming up with ideas but the most difficult part of the collecting info section was thinking about measurements and materials. I had to “go out into the field” myself and take the measurements of the space that I would be designing in, and because of all the turns and curves of the space I decided just to get the measurements of the perimeter of each area I was changing by simply creating a rectangle around the area. (The perimeter of the proposed cafeteria space including the library, was roughly 185’x 130′) Then thinking about materials sounds easy but I didn’t know if I wanted to represent them in my model so I sort of did both, I thought about what would be in the space and what t would be made of so that the viewer could better understand what the space is like through the model.

Brainstorming: I mean this is without a doubt the best part of the architecture, you can think of anything and then apply the concepts we’ve learned to create the product. I had a ton of ideas at first but thin I had to think about things realistically, which can sometimes be limiting. For instance, I really wanted to have an outdoor part to the cafeteria but I figured realistically that wasn’t gonna happen at my school because it was on the 4th floor. Sure it can be fun to come up with all these creative ideas but the hard task was putting it all down into a representation for someone with accurate measurements etc.



Final Product

Original cafeteria walkthrough:

Original library walkthrough:

Redesigned cafeteria walkthrough:

Headphones suggested





Are you satisfied with the cafeteria at your school?




Did I address the problems?


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  1. April 29, 2017 by randall Dunn

    Ysrael, wow. This is great. This is exactly the thinking we currently have for this space. I would love to get you involved with the committee to program this space.

    • May 01, 2017 by Ysrael

      Thank you so much, I’d be happy to help or join the committee in any way I can!

  2. May 06, 2017 by M.P. Rodriguez

    Ysrael – this is AWESOME! I’d love to chat with you more about this. To Mr. Dunn’s point, would you be interested in joining the committee for the learning commons design?

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