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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.
The Lab School of Washington is an innovative learning community fostering scholarship and creativity in students with language-based learning differences, such as dyslexia and ADHD. The Lab School’s arts-based program, designed for these students to thrive, includes a vibrant performing arts program, however the school had an existing small Black Box Theater that was inadequate to support their growing performing arts program.
cox graae + spack architects was commissioned to prepare a master plan for the Lab School’s Reservoir Road campus in Washington DC. Among other program considerations they were asked to propose options for an expanded or new theater space. Through analysis it was agreed that expanding the existing Black Box Theater was not an option, so other locations on the campus were reviewed. It was determined that the existing underused natatorium provided a viable opportunity. A study of the athletics building showed that the volume of the natatorium space was a perfect fit for the 275-seat theater while also keeping the gymnasium. Raked seating went into the swimming pool with room underneath the seats for low volume air distribution from below. The pool’s pump room, perfectly located immediately backstage, became the scene shop. Some of the locker rooms were maintained as restrooms but the large space allowed for an additional music room and recording studio that doubles as the Green Room. The renovation includes a generous lobby with box office serving both theater and sporting events.
Charles H. Houston Elementary School, located in the Deanwood Neighborhood of Washington, DC, was originally constructed in 1962 to serve students from pre-school through the fifth grade. In 2018, plans were prepared for a fully modernized facility that could bring the program into compliance with current DCPS Educational Specifications and reinforce 21st century learning paradigms. Due to existing site constraints, the modernization was undertaken in two phases with the existing 1962 School building fully modernized in Fall 2019.
The project scope included the modernization of first and second floor academic, early childhood, special education, and administrative spaces. Additional programs were renovated to provide up to date teaching spaces, media center, welcome center, administration offices and support. Existing spaces were dramatically reconfigured to replace original dark, internal double loaded corridors with new single loaded perimeter circulation infusing the circulation and adjoining spaces with abundant natural light. The Design utilizes the metaphors of animals and environmental eco-systems to illustrate and reinforce concepts of diversity, community, and social awareness. Wings of the building are identified by animal themes representing South American jungles, the African savannah, and North American woodlands to exemplify how diverse groups can coexist in the same place, at the same time. The use of vibrant color is central to the design of the modernized School, activating the sense of place and creating a welcoming identity within the school, and to the neighborhood. Public art installations play an important role in the school’s thematic and cultural expression as well. Site specific works are built on the foundations of four supporting themes; nature and the natural world, community and unity, inspirational messaging and heroes. These unique and colorful expressions inspire Houston’s young learners and help to create a rich and vital setting that fosters important personal connections and instills great neighborhood pride.
The District’s premier comprehensive high school of 1,600 students had been in dire need of renovation and expansion for decades. Originally constructed during the Great Depression to educate 750 students, the program grew apace with the surrounding community, taxing available educational space. Awarded through a design competition process, the proposed modernization and expansion focused-on right-sizing academic space, expanding facilities to accommodate significant program growth, and re-visioning spaces to reflect and accommodate the diverse school community.
Through an efficient and organized design process, the project opened for its 2011-2012 academic year with only one year of off-site swing space necessary. The site, involving 300,000 SF of renovated existing space and 75,000 SF of new construction, was reorganized into three major venues, each independently operational for school and community use. The Academic Building features a dynamic 10,000 SF, 4-story, landscaped atrium with a dramatic skylight roof sheltering space for the school community to gather and engage. The Athletic Center strategically positions two new gyms with an exercise facility in the original Power Plant, next to the recently completed Aquatic Center and forming a new athletic recreation complex. The exciting new Visual and Performing Arts Center, entered through a new 2-story lobby, includes an 850-seat state-of-the-art auditorium with scene shop, black box theater, band and music rooms, 2D and 3D art studios, choral arts and dance studios, adjacent to a robotics lab, media center, cybercafé, media production, and computer labs.