Text by Katie Gerfen
For urban universities, expansion can be a tricky proposition. Tabula rasa sites are few and far between, and while location is king when acquiring a new building, chances are that if the existing structure doesn’t require a complete tear-down, it needs a substantial overhaul. Such was the case when Georgetown University acquired space for its Center for Continuing Studies in an existing downtown Washington, D.C., building. It was the right location at the right time: Construction is booming in the area, and the university got an early perch in what’s becoming a new hub for Class A space. But the structure itself was a former television studio with dark rooms and blank walls—hardly ideal for an educational facility in an era when the benefits of light and view are well-documented.
So Georgetown brought in the experts from Studios Architecture, who have crafted envy-inducing interiors in purpose-built facilities such as the Frank Gehry, FAIA–designed IAC Building in New York, and have transformed existing spaces such as the former International Toy Center at 200 Fifth Avenue. Studios centered Georgetown’s facility around a glittering new atrium lined in white perforated-metal panels. The bright, four-story volume, which includes two below-grade levels, brings daylight deep into the floor plate, where breakout study and meeting spaces are tucked under wood ceilings broken up by linear light troughs that rival any cutting-edge office interior. The former television studio itself was reconfigured as a 140-seat auditorium with a white faceted ceiling. Location may have been a driver, but Studios’ redesign of the interior will prepare future titans of industry for any high-end office environment.
Project: Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, Washington, D.C.
Client/Owner: Georgetown University (interior)/Brookfield Office Properties (core & shell)
Architect/Interior Designer: Studios Architecture, Washington, D.C. . Todd DeGarmo, FAIA, Brian Pilot, AIA, Erin Carlisle, AIA, Michael Doyle, Emily Schneider, Ben Kracke, AIA, Hiroshi Jacobs, AIA, Lee Sewell, Maria Pacheco, Melissa Funkey
Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: GHT; Girard Engineering
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
Civil Engineer: Wiles Mensch Corp.
Construction Manager/General Contractor: Davis Construction
Landscape Architect: Lee and Associates
Lighting Designer: MCLA Architectural Lighting Design
Graphics: Design 360
Cost Consultant: TBD Consultants
Acoustic/Security/IT: Shen Milsom & Wilke
Woodwork Contractor: CW Keller & Associates
Size: 100,000 square feet
This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.
Read all of ARCHITECT's coverage of the 2016 AIA Honor Awards.
Project DescriptionFROM THE AIA:
The university found a building whose location was ideal (while its interior was anything but) for a downtown campus for continuing studies programs. A former television studio with a windowless street face and two subterranean levels that would allow no view out and no daylight coming in, the space was nevertheless in a busy section of the downtown area that would afford convenient connections for students, faculty and other users.
The architects created a space that is light and, thanks to a set of series of hanging staircases in a new four-story atrium abundantly open for the free flow and spontaneous interactions that a more traditional grassy campus yields.
An emphasis on light or transparent materials enhanced the brightness and conviviality that a campus center requires. It helped make the atrium the vital hub of the space, as well as to mitigate the lack of outdoor views from the two lower levels. A perforated metal wall treatment mounted four stories high on one side of the atrium is a contemporary curtain, alternating openness with opacity.
In spaces that radiate out from the atrium, angular ceiling treatments and cutouts, horizontal piping in the wood paneling and some exposed utility lines create a visual sense of motion and lightness. And social spaces dot the floorplan, some containing furniture and others multi-purpose built-ins, to foster various kinds of formal and informal study and socializing.
In a onetime television studio, the architects created a 140-seat tiered auditorium with ribbed walls and an irregularly folded ceiling, a handsome insertion into a previously boxy space.