Launch Slideshow

Marriott Hall St. Albans School. The original 1909 school building is seen on the left.

Marriott Hall, St. Albans School

Nestled on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral, in a landscaped close designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the St. Albans campus comprises several architecturally disparate hillside buildings.

Marriott Hall, St. Albans School

Nestled on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral, in a landscaped close designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the St. Albans campus comprises several architecturally disparate hillside buildings.

  • Marriott Hall St. Albans School. The original 1909 school building is seen on the left.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32DF%2Etmp_tcm20-360185.jpg

    Marriott Hall St. Albans School. The original 1909 school building is seen on the left.

    600

    Robert Polidori

    Marriott Hall, St. Albans School. The original 1909 school building is seen on the left.

  • The masonry walls of the new Marriott Hall were designed to match those of the original 1909 school building as much as possible. Since the original quarry was longclosed the team selected stonebased on a color matchfrom White Hall N.Y. in the Adirondack Mountains and they executed several mockups to ensure that the mortar work had the same handtooled raking as the original. The design team selected darker stone to act as a sort of wainscoting where the building meets the ground plane another homage to the original building.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32E3%2Etmp_tcm20-360221.jpg

    The masonry walls of the new Marriott Hall were designed to match those of the original 1909 school building as much as possible. Since the original quarry was longclosed the team selected stonebased on a color matchfrom White Hall N.Y. in the Adirondack Mountains and they executed several mockups to ensure that the mortar work had the same handtooled raking as the original. The design team selected darker stone to act as a sort of wainscoting where the building meets the ground plane another homage to the original building.

    600

    Robert Polidori

    The masonry walls of the new Marriott Hall were designed to match those of the original 1909 school building as much as possible. Since the original quarry was long-closed, the team selected stone—based on a color match—from White Hall, N.Y., in the Adirondack Mountains, and they executed several mock-ups to ensure that the mortar work had the same hand-tooled raking as the original. The design team selected darker stone to act as a sort of wainscoting where the building meets the ground plane, another homage to the original building.

  • The project includes several green roof strategies. By applying field turf to the roof of an existing pool building foreground the architects created an outdoor recreation area directly off the student center. The glass guard rail on top of the cantilevered top story protects another planted green roof this one with sedum and pavers. The next phase of the project will add a pavilionlike glassenclosed conference room to that topmost green roof for use by faculty or for special events.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32E4%2Etmp_tcm20-360230.jpg

    The project includes several green roof strategies. By applying field turf to the roof of an existing pool building foreground the architects created an outdoor recreation area directly off the student center. The glass guard rail on top of the cantilevered top story protects another planted green roof this one with sedum and pavers. The next phase of the project will add a pavilionlike glassenclosed conference room to that topmost green roof for use by faculty or for special events.

    600

    Robert Polidori

    The project includes several green roof strategies. By applying field turf to the roof of an existing pool building (foreground), the architects created an outdoor recreation area directly off the student center. The glass guard rail on top of the cantilevered top story protects another planted green roof, this one with sedum and pavers. The next phase of the project will add a pavilion-like, glass-enclosed conference room to that top-most green roof, for use by faculty or for special events.

  • Image

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32DC%2Etmp_tcm20-360158.jpg

    Image

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  • The hillside site resulted in a fourfloor building that is hidden from view at the main entrance a singlestory volume on the northwest end. The two uppermost floors contain classrooms and offices and they bridge a pathway before joining the two lower levels at the base of the hill.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32DA%2Etmp_tcm20-360140.jpg

    The hillside site resulted in a fourfloor building that is hidden from view at the main entrance a singlestory volume on the northwest end. The two uppermost floors contain classrooms and offices and they bridge a pathway before joining the two lower levels at the base of the hill.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The hillside site resulted in a four-floor building that is hidden from view at the main entrance, a single-story volume on the northwest end. The two uppermost floors contain classrooms and offices, and they bridge a pathway before joining the two lower levels at the base of the hill.

  • Image

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32DD%2Etmp_tcm20-360167.jpg

    Image

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  • Image

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32DB%2Etmp_tcm20-360149.jpg

    Image

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  • Group study spaces like this one adjacent to the building entrance are located throughout Marriott Hall. Floortoceiling windows allow students to view the original 1909 school building. Cues such as the terrazzo floor that matches the hallway unlike the carpeted classrooms mark the space as a public area.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32E1%2Etmp_tcm20-360203.jpg

    Group study spaces like this one adjacent to the building entrance are located throughout Marriott Hall. Floortoceiling windows allow students to view the original 1909 school building. Cues such as the terrazzo floor that matches the hallway unlike the carpeted classrooms mark the space as a public area.

    600

    Robert Polidori

    Group study spaces, like this one adjacent to the building entrance, are located throughout Marriott Hall. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow students to view the original 1909 school building. Cues such as the terrazzo floor that matches the hallway (unlike the carpeted classrooms) mark the space as a public area.

  • Image

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32DE%2Etmp_tcm20-360176.jpg

    Image

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  • Fire egress is accommodated by glassenclosed indoor stairs that run directly alongside an exterior stair with doors on each landing that allow students free run of the outdoors. This is not a culture where we want to limit freedom says Michael Carline director of capital projects for St. Albans.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp32E2%2Etmp_tcm20-360212.jpg

    Fire egress is accommodated by glassenclosed indoor stairs that run directly alongside an exterior stair with doors on each landing that allow students free run of the outdoors. This is not a culture where we want to limit freedom says Michael Carline director of capital projects for St. Albans.

    600

    Robert Polidori

    Fire egress is accommodated by glass-enclosed indoor stairs that run directly alongside an exterior stair, with doors on each landing that allow students free run of the outdoors. "This is not a culture where we want to limit freedom," says Michael Carline, director of capital projects for St. Albans.

When Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) principal Roger Duffy first arrived on Washington, D.C.’s St. Albans School campus in 2003, he saw a lone man in a cardigan sipping a coffee in the early morning light. Hoping to get a leg up for his interview, Duffy asked the man for a tour. It wasn’t until later that Duffy realized his tour guide was, in fact, headmaster Vance Wilson, the man who would become his client for the next six years.

Nestled on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral, in a landscaped close designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the St. Albans campus comprises several architecturally disparate hillside buildings. SOM’s 70,000-square-foot Marriott Hall—half a renovation of a 1970s building (stripped down to the concrete frame) and half new construction—connects the existing facilities and adds classroom and social spaces.

Despite being unabashedly modern, Marriott Hall fits so well within its historic context, it’s hard to see that it wasn’t always a part of it. The entrance to the new building is deliberately quiet and unassuming: a single-story volume in glass and stone. Duffy specified masonry to match the color and mortar style of the original 1909 school building that sits adjacent. The real drama of Marriott Hall begins as the ground plane falls away to reveal three floors below the entrance level, and projecting volumes, intersecting terraces, and shifts in material disrupt the building’s long, rectangular mass.

Duffy asserted that what the school needed was a landscape solution, not a building solution, which resonated with the selection committee. His team visited the Olmsted archives in Brookline, Mass., where they found the original drawings for the cathedral close—and realized that there was once a direct line of sight from the campus’ main archway to the Capitol dome. Reinstating that exact view was not possible, since the 1970s building was erected in the way and because of other construction along that visual axis in the intervening century, but Duffy’s team nonetheless developed their interior strategy around it. The circulation spine of the new building follows the Olmsted axis, ending in a window that frames the modern vista.

Nine massive planters, each with 3 or more feet of soil, are populated with species of trees and shrubbery found elsewhere in Olmsted’s landscape. Balconies provide break-out space for students, as do green roofs planted with grass, trees, field turf, and sedum. The goal is that in five years, when the plantings are mature, the building will resemble a tree house. “There’s a symbiosis with nature,” says Duffy, “but there will be a balance. Right now the architecture is in the fore, but it will be softened by nature over time.”

The architecture encourages students, teachers, and visitors to traverse the elevator-accessible campus via a series of exterior staircases. Bordered by masonry walls, the meandering stairs lead up and over the structures on site—an effect that Duffy likens to an Italian hill town. But in the shadow of the cathedral, the staircases also evoke a pilgrim’s path. Starting at the base of the site, one can walk up and over the new building—without ever going inside it—to reach the cathedral.

Presented with more than one path, people sometimes go astray. But without the journey, the pilgrim’s progress would not be nearly so sweet.


Project Credits

Project St. Albans School, Marriott Hall, Washington, D.C.
Client St. Albans School
Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York—Roger Duffy (design partner); Anthony Vacchione (managing partner); Colin Koop (senior designer); Christopher McCready (project manager); Doug Alligood, Brad Cary (senior technical coordinators); Peter Cho (technical coordinator); Will Hulver (site representative)
Owners’ Representative Tishman Construction Corp.
Landscape Richard Burke Associates
Civil Engineers Jacobs Engineering Group
Structural, M/E/P, and FP Engineers, Telecom, A/V, Acoustics, Lighting Arup Consulting Engineers
General Contractor Coakley Williams Construction
Security Access International
Vertical Transportation Lerch Bates & Associates
Food Service Hopkins Food Service Specialists
Code Code Consultants Professional Engineers
Size 70,000 square feet

Material & Sources

Adhesives, Coatings, and Sealants Dow Corning dowcorning.com; Pecora Corp. pecora.com
Carpet Milliken & Co. milliken.com
Ceilings BPB America bpb-na.com; USG usg.com
Concrete Arban Precast Stone arbanprecaststone.com
Flooring Roman Mosaic and Tile Company (Terrazzo) romanmosaic.com
Furniture Irwin Seating Co. (Auditorium seating) irwinseating.com
Lighting Lightolier lightolier.com; Bega bega-us.com; Focal Point focalpointlights.com; Winona Lighting winonalighting.com; Electrix Illumination electrix.com
Masonry and Stone Adirondack Natural Stone adirondacknaturalstone.com; Redland Brick (Cushwa) redlandbrick.com
Millwork FSB fsbna.com; Blumcraft of Pittsburgh blumcraft.com; Dorma dorma-usa.com; Schlage schlage.com; Grass grassusa.com; Accuride accuride.com; Knape and Vogt knapeandvogt.com; Häfele hafele.com
Paints and Finishes Sherwin-Williams sherwin-williams.com
Roofing American Hydrotech hydrotechusa.com; Hanover Architectural Products (Pavers) hanoverpavers.com
Windows, Curtain wall, Doors Kawneer kawneer.com; Viracon viracon.com; Guardian guardian.com