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Early Childhood Academy is a public charter school serving students from across Washington, DC from Pre-Kindergarten 3 through 3rd Grade. Their mission is to foster the academic and social/emotional development of each student in a safe and holistic learning environment. Early Childhood aims to equip all students with the knowledge and tools to become high achievers, proficient readers, and critical thinkers. They seek to create a strong educational foundation for their students so they will thrive for a lifetime as productive and caring citizens.
Since its founding in 2005, Early Childhood Academy has operated from two disparate, non-school use centers on adjacent properties in the Washington Highlands neighborhood in Ward 8. The genesis of what would become the Early Childhood building started with the Menkiti Group, a DC based, mission-driven developer focused on transforming lives, careers, and communities through real estate. Menkiti was advising Early Childhood on purchasing a space of their own as they struggled to meet the needs of their students in a less than ideal physical space, when they learned that a vacant church on the adjacent site was for sale.
CGS Architects was commissioned to develop an affordable, creative design solution for the future home of Early Childhood Academy on the site of the abandoned 2-story brick church. The church was gutted and fully renovated with a new community gathering space created in the original sanctuary and Pre-K / Kindergarten below.
A 30,000sf addition was added to the southeastern side of the existing church. Given the steep nature of the site, a 3-story, concrete frame addition was set into the hillside. A brightly colored opening in an exposed concrete base welcomes students at the main entrance, and 2-story classroom volumes with large translucent windows sit on top of the base. The 1st Grade classrooms are located on the second floor of the addition, adjacent to the Pre-K and Kindergarten wing with direct connection to a new outdoor playground, and the 2nd and 3rd Grade Classrooms are located on the top level with connection to the multipurpose room and the north entrance. Large stairs at the center of the building with bold wall graphics connect the 3 floors and creates identity for each floor.
The project has been transformational to the Early Childhood and the community. The educators and students have a home they deserve where young students have a place to grow and thrive in an environment designed uniquely for them.
The Langley School is an independent day school in McLean, Virginia serving 480 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. Founded upon a deep appreciation for childhood, and an abiding belief in the necessity and power of parent/teacher partnership, the Langley School offers a nurturing community with an individually attuned academic program –proving both to be mutually reinforcing and equally essential to a child’s development and education.
In 2010, CGS and the Langley School developed a Campus Master Plan to guide long-term facility growth and facilitate incremental campus development. The plan represented a bold and ambitious direction for the school and the culmination of several years of detailed discussion and planning. At its core, the Campus Master Plan focused on development of a simple and coherent group of buildings organized around a central green to complement existing structures. The Campus was conceived as a series of use zones: public & private, vehicular & pedestrian, and academic & play. Vehicle parking was reworked to create a controlled traffic flow that allows for bus loading and car pick-up/drop-off to occur on the public/vehicular facing side of Campus, ensuring safe separation between students and vehicles. The Administration Building is intentionally placed at this entrance as the “gatekeeper” for visual security and administrative control. A landscaped campus green forms a central open space around which all new buildings are organized which forms a continuous edge along the south side of the green.
From this original vision grew the Crossroads Building. By formal definition, a Crossroads is a junction, a place of intersection and a central meeting place. For Langley, this became the first building on campus to house programmatic functions that would engage their entire student body over the course of each day: academics, Library, music, after-school programs, and a multipurpose room. It was envisioned to be a Caring Community hub: a place of social interaction and scholastic engagement which is a Cornerstone of Langley’s Mission.
The now completed Crossroads Building serves as a gathering space for all Langley students and teachers. The building was convinced with extensive stakeholder engagement to ensure the program spaces, furnishings, interior finishes, and overall plan fit the current and future needs of the Langley School. The building is organized on three levels connected by a light-filled central stairwell with highly controlled access to each area for student safety. The first level is home to the youngest learners, bringing all the Primary School classes together under one roof. The second level holds the Library, Innovation/Technology Lab, and the 5th Grade Commons and classrooms. To Langley, this is a pivotal year for a student. They are developing skills and taking healthy risks to become independent, responsible, and caring leaders as they prepare for Middle School. Abundant natural light fills the academic spaces and filters through into central gathering spaces, connecting all program areas visually. The Library’s lofted ceiling creates an inviting atmosphere that supports discovery for all ages in the Langley Community.
The Crossroads Building illustrates how a building can become the physical manifestation of an educational program and create a vibrant setting that gathers, connects, and changes.
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States, founded in 1799 and is run by the Sisters of Visitation. Visitation focuses on educational excellence and empowering its students to meet the demands and challenges of a rapidly changing and morally complex world. Visitation is dedicated to balancing academic challenges with co-curricular activities and community service in order to develop intellectually mature and morally responsible women of faith, vision, and purpose. Over the years, Visitation has grown and needed to address two pressing needs at the School: to meet the demand for an adequately-sized and appointed classroom space and to upgrade the School’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) classroom.
CGS Architects’ design features a glass hyphen serving as the Saint’s Connector linking St. Joseph’s Hall to the adjacent St. Bernard Library. This light filled, enclosed 2-story volume creates a new entrance for the academic facility and houses a highly-used and trafficked student commons. The glass and exposed steel expression contrasts the heavy masonry skin of the adjacent historic structures. The 2-story north connector addition balances the mass and scale of the existing historic St. Bernard Library – originally constructed in 1895 and converted to educational space in 1959 – with a form that is derived from the original architecture. The glass curtain wall ties the new addition to the new entrance link and creates light-filled academic spaces.
The STEM Center is located to the back of the Saint’s Connector, utilizing the light provided through the large glass walls. The exterior wall of the Center opens entirely to the rear patio area giving the students exterior working space. The natural light and openness of the Connector is an inviting space where students congregate to study, work, and enjoy one another’s company.
Berchmans Hall to the north of St. Joseph’s Hall houses art studios, science labs, and other classroom spaces. The addition features small breakouts spaces with whiteboards where students can be found reviewing test results or preparing for an upcoming final.
Founded in 1789, Georgetown Preparatory School was the vision of John Carroll, the first bishop of Baltimore. The boarding and day school for boys in grades nine through twelve was originally part of the Georgetown University campus. In 1921, Georgetown Prep moved to its current location on 93-acres in North Bethesda, Maryland. In conjunction with a comprehensive campus Master Plan that created significant new physical education and athletic space, the School sought to re-purpose their existing gymnasium into a new Learning Commons with new and contiguous communal student space.
The new George Center is a unique, multi-function, academic building that adapts the 1950’s era former gymnasium into a dynamic campus hub and student gathering place. The building consists of two elements separated by a glass-roofed gallery: the completely reconfigured old gymnasium and a new and contemporary three level addition. The new program area is a strong counterpoint with a spacious, skylit atrium. Comfortable student lounges and a full-service café provide social space for students, allowing them to relax, socialize, eat, study, or attend classes all in the same building. Fronting the school’s academic quadrangle, the old gym building’s original basketball court floor was converted into a dramatic new, 9,250 SF library with a 25-foot-high reading room. The facility features 14,000 literary volumes, a computer research center, a smart classroom and conference room, private study rooms, faculty offices, and a tutoring suite. Below the reading room floor, 8 full-sized academic classrooms replace the original locker and shower rooms.
The Potomac School in McLean, VA is co-ed K-12 private school for over 1,000 students situated on a 90-acre campus within a natural setting that includes forest, streams, and fields. CGS Architects was commissioned to undertake a comprehensive campus master planning effort intended to become a resource for evaluating the needs for facility improvement and campus growth while providing a vehicle for matching construction opportunities with available funding. Implementation of the master plan began with the renovation of / addition to the Upper School, creating an environmentally sensitive 21st century education building that extends teaching spaces from the classroom to the outdoors. A new Lower School was the second phase of this plan, expressing the school’s mission to teach environmental stewardship beginning with their youngest students. The Intermediate School project was subsequently completed, becoming the sixth building facility that CGS Architects designed on the Potomac campus.
The Upper School project included the renovation of its existing building and the construction of two new wings, the East Building and the Tundra Building. A glass-enclosed pedestrian bridge spanning the width of a new exterior quadrangle connects the new construction. Central to the buildings - and to the students’ school day - is the ‘Crosswords’, a three-level social gathering space positioned between the new Tundra Building and the existing Upper School. In addition to greatly improved classrooms, the new complex includes a 125-seat tiered classroom, a black box theater, a library, a dining room with floor-to-ceiling glass, and balconies that open to expansive views of the campus. The Potomac School’s new Lower School was the second phase of their multi-phased expansion. The project takes advantage of bucolic rolling hills on the northwest side of the campus such that each classroom is directly connected to outdoor teaching areas in an intimate courtyard. In addition to thirteen classrooms, the Lower School Building includes separate science, art, music, and computer spaces. The Intermediate School project reflects the school’s mission to create an environmentally sensitive 21st century school that extends teaching spaces from the classroom to the outdoors.
The Intermediate School houses six classrooms, a new main office, three breakout areas for students, new bathrooms, and a two-story Commons. Two new outdoor learning spaces, including an amphitheater in the Pingree Garden and a second-floor deck, were also incorporated into the design. The school’s new two-story Commons, which opens onto the amphitheater, is the Intermediate school’s ‘Heart’ ; an important focal point of the design that is used for community meetings and student gatherings.
The ca. 1957 Flora Hendley Elementary School, located in the District of Columbia’s Ward 8, was sorely in need of facility modernization and upgrades to align their program with current DC Public Schools Educational Specifications criteria. To meet these needs, the project became part of an aggressive plan to modernize six DC elementary schools over a short summer recess.
A full renovation of the building’s entry, academic, administrative, and support spaces was needed. The existing structure was built with a concrete frame and had a four-story classroom wing with a one-story lobby and an adjacent two-story lunchroom / auditorium wing. In 1964, a two-story classroom wing, called the Annex, was built at the south side of the site and five years later a one-story kitchen addition was completed.
The entire demolition and renovation of the building occurred in only eight weeks of summer, an extremely aggressive schedule. As a result, everything needed to be designed, procured and ready to commence the hour school recessed for the summer. To this end, CGS Architects worked diligently with the Contractor to coordinate the successful execution plan.
The project focused on right-sizing academic spaces to align with current class size standards and needs. This also included replacing the entire HVAC system, creating new restrooms, all new finishes, and replacing deteriorating windows. The most significant, and most sorely needed change, was transformation of the school’s main entrance. Safety was of paramount importance to stakeholders at the school. Their original lobby was very closed-off, fortified and opaque, manifesting antiquated ideas of security. Through application of ‘Crime Prevention Through Design’ principals, the design solution created a safe space while maintaining a welcoming, transparent, open, and light-filled entrance expression of school pride and the joy of learning, playfulness and delight.
HD Woodson STEM High School is located in a predominately African American neighborhood rich in cultural history. Despite its proximity to the most powerful government in the world, the community has historically struggled with social and economic issues that afflict many underserved urban neighborhoods, including the highest rate of illiteracy among all the wards in the District of Columbia. The new HD Woodson STEM High School replaces an original seven-story educational tower that first opened on the site in 1972, affectionately referred to as the “Tower of Power.” The school served as a source of community pride for nearly 30 years but eventually, through lack of adequate funding and deferred maintenance, the tower that loomed over the neighborhood became an outsized symbol of the District of Columbia’s dysfunctional governance.
CGS architects led an initiative to replace the crumbling existing building with the first new ground-up high school STEM educational facility in the mid-Atlantic region. Designed around core principles of integrated learning, transparency and flexibility, the building redefines academic models for collaboration and project-based learning. In addition, the facility was designed to become a cultural center for neighborhood programs. Listening carefully to the broader community through an intensive engagement process, CGS defined a model for community amenities, including library spaces, recreation facilities and cultural arts venues that are separately accessed and operated beyond educational spaces and outside of the traditional academic day. The LEED Gold HD Woodson STEM High School has become a stimulus for improved learning outcomes and a fulcrum for the community. Previously lagging enrollment numbers soared in the school’s first years as disenfranchised families returned to this “learning machine”; a physical manifestation of the District of Columbia’s commitment to 21st century educational models and improved academic outcomes. Similarly, the community-centric design is a template for broadening the role of neighborhood schools by providing access to cultural and recreational facilities previously lacking, fostering connections and great neighborhood pride.
Eaton Elementary School is located in Washington DC’s Cleveland Park Historic District, in the shadow of the National Cathedral. Founded with just 20 students in the early 1900s, it now serves a community of over 500 hailing from all 4 quadrants of the District. Over the years, the building has incrementally evolved with additions to its four existing buildings; the original and charming 1910 pavilion, a second matching pavilion from the 1920s, a 1930s multipurpose building, and finally a 1980s brutalist entry addition. In 2018, DC Public Schools sought to update the aging facility and expand the current program areas by 50% to meet modern education standards. The site is extremely tight and exterior space was identified by the school as “especially precious for outdoor play and learning.”
In 2019, CGS Architects began designs to modernize Eaton. The evolution of the design was heavily influenced by the School’s historic buildings and its Cleveland Park Historic District context. The finished exterior marries new and old, using infill construction to knit historic elements into a dynamic architectural expression. Eaton’s Many Cultures, One Community motto became the genesis of the new interior design theme. The School’s international culture is celebrated by associating the building floor levels with continental land masses and associated dominant colors. World language scripts, physical geography maps, and internationally themed art installations give each floor a distinct regional identity and provide a sense of orientation within the building. The design effort required careful assessment of existing, historic structures to balance the addition of increased program space while maintaining heavily-used outdoor space. Ultimately, removing one of the existing aged structures afforded space for expansion but triggered an arduous DC Mayor’s Agent approval process. Through careful planning and engagement with government regulatory agencies, all approvals were received successfully in the context of an extremely aggressive schedule.
Founded by educator Elizabeth Ely in 1972, the Field School originally housed 44 students above Regina Cleaners in DC’s DuPont Circle. After two years the school more than doubled its population to 97, forcing them to move a townhome in DC’s Kalorama neighborhood. Eventually they purchased another home across the street and the two buildings were used for their now 220 students. In 1998 the Field School once again needed to move for their growing academic program. The Cafritz mansion fit the bill; an Art Deco mansion on 10-acres in the Foxhall neighborhood of Washington, DC.
In 2002, CGS Architects completed a campus plan for the new space, utilizing the existing residence and adding two buildings; Aude and Sapere, meaning Dare and Be Wise in Latin. In 2012, the Field School engaged CGS Architects to again to update and expand their facilities.
The updated program impacted all aspects to their campus–academic, arts, athletic, and administration–creating two new integrated structures, the Elizabeth Meeting House and the Bridge. In the Meeting House, the focus was on providing a new school entry and a new all-school gathering space at the heart of the campus. The Field School requested a gathering space that feels like a ‘family room’ while being flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of activities, performances, presentations, and formal or informal gatherings. The Bridge contains performing arts spaces, a music performance space/classroom with adjacent recording studio and isolation booth, art and science labs, and classrooms.
CGS Architects worked with a broad constituency from the school community to develop a design that reflects the unique culture at the Field School. “Vibe” sessions were held with key stakeholders and then followed up with frequent design discussions facilitated with the use of an evolving 3D model. Through that process, a design was developed that reflected the school’s vision down to the finest detail while accommodating a complicated and diverse program.
The new structures are tucked into the hill next to the mansion, integrating them into an already tight composition of existing buildings on a steeply sloping site and creating the feel of a small hill town. Outdoor spaces, adjacent to and on top of the new structures, provide a myriad of gathering opportunities of varied scale and size for the school community. The Meeting House is embedded in the site with a habitable roof for up to 500 persons.
The mansion’s front door was used originally utilized as the school’s main entrance, but the new structure became the new face of the program. The existing mansion housed a circular staircase with gold leaf ceiling and was a prominent element for students and teachers. When discussing what the entry should be, this form was an obvious starting point. The new entrance rotunda worked a ‘knuckle’, connecting the existing buildings to the new Meeting House. The rotunda entrance serves as a clean and identifiable front door and opens to spectacular views into the landscape.
Founded in 1799, Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School is the oldest Catholic high school for girls in the United States. In July of 1993, a devastating fire destroyed their ca. 1873, National Register eligible Academy Building, initiating a new chapter in the school’s long history and sparking a close relationship with CGS Architects that has spanned almost thirty years and twelve design and construction initiatives. Throughout the process, the firm has redefined Visitation’s campus and developed multiple facilities that support the school’s embrace of 21st century educational initiatives and collaborative learning paradigms.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the Visitation community embraced the opportunity to re-vision their program and propel the school into a vital future. CGS Architects resurrected the Victorian National Landmark building within its salvaged exterior masonry walls, achieving a balance between preserving the historic façade and implementing modern interior spaces. The first floor features a replication of the original reception parlors while the upper floors house new classrooms, administrative office and gathering spaces. On May 5, 1995, the building was rededicated as Founders Hall. Following the accelerated reconstruction process, CGS Architects developed a new campus master plan as a roadmap for incremental growth and change. Significantly, the firm envisioned a new campus core that quickly became the identifiable heart of the school community – space that facilitates passage and the casual interactions that nurture connections and strengthen relationships. Subsequent projects included the adaptive re-use of existing facilities to create a chapel / performing arts venue and a new physical education building that reinforces the “urban” edge and defines space for outdoor gathering. The newest building initiative promotes the school’s emphasis on convergent STEM disciplines by adding new laboratory / science learning spaces and fine arts studios. In addition, a new student-commons forms the “watering hole” between a ca. 1950’s classroom building and existing library structure to support social learning and create a venue for engagement and connection.