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  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Schools
  4. United States
  5. SOM
  6. 2006
  7. St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

  • 01:00 - 12 December, 2009
St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, © Unknown photographer
© Unknown photographer

© Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer © Unknown photographer +23

  • Location

    Mount St. Albans, D.C.
  • Architect in Charge

    Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Project Year

  • Photographs

From the architect. In 2006, with its centennial approaching, St. Albans School, a private boys’ school founded in 1909, decided to embark upon its first new construction project in nearly 30 years. The institution hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to complete a 25,000-square-foot expansion and 30,00-square-foot of renovations to provide a student center, new classrooms, faculty offices, library and auditorium. The school, which had developed slowly over the years and did not follow a rational plan, also hoped that the architects could create a cohesive linkage between four of its existing buildings.

SOM looked to St. Albans’ context for inspiration. The school is located on Mount St. Albans, which is the highest elevation in the D.C. area, and on the grounds of the National Cathedral, which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. The landscape architect conceived of the cathedral’s surroundings as a cathedral close, outlining a network of garden walkways that he called “pilgrim paths.” These paths guide visitors slowly up the forested hill, revealing framed views of important D.C. landmarks along the way before terminating at the cathedral.

SOM developed an architectural language around the idea of Olmsted’s paths, creating a series of interior and exterior passages that rise 60 feet, joining St. Albans’ lower campus with its main entrance above. Along this route, , there are gathering areas, whether within enclosed, cantilevered volumes or open-air terrace, offering views of the surroundings and the major landmarks of the Nation’s Capitol. The new extension, at the heart of the campus, seamlessly interconnects disparate internal floor levels and external public spaces, creating better physical and visual connections to the Cathedral, enhancing views to central Washington, and improving circulation sequences. The design shuns the typical campus architecture of enclosed quads in favor of interconnectivity with the landscape.

© Unknown photographer
© Unknown photographer

The new building itself, known as Marriott Hall, is a three-story modernist building that also very carefully establishes a familial relationship to the neo-Gothic architecture of the existing campus. SOM accomplished this by cladding much of the exterior with a blue stone that closely resembles the Potomac stone used in the original 1909 buildings. Terraced walkways provide places for students to gather and interact on campus, an important part of the institution’s educational philosophy. They also provide direct egress from the building at multiple levels, allowing SOM to forgo fire doors and stairs.

© Unknown photographer
© Unknown photographer

The classrooms themselves are clad in floor-to-ceiling glass. The architects carefully controlled the daylight in the interior by installing a light shelf eight feet up the glass wall. Below that point, the glass has a ceramic frit at 30 percent density; above, the glass is clear. This mitigates glare and heat gain, while allowing full sunlight to bounce off the shelf and turn the ceiling into an indirect reflector. Fluorescent lamps atop the shelf ensure that day or night classrooms receive the same degree of illumination.

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill" 12 Dec 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
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Centor4 · April 25, 2011

St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill | ArchDaily via @archdaily

??? · May 23, 2010


Gardener · March 25, 2010

Excellent work on this article. It makes for an interesting and Thoughtful read.

? · December 31, 2009


Andrew Shenouda · December 15, 2009

I like the way of integrating the new with old!
I like also landscape!

zbigniew · December 17, 2009 02:39 AM

Have'nt you noticed they hadn't changed thei neofunctionist approach since their debut in the sixties? its nothing new here and the game with material trying to go along with older neighbourhood is quite dull i guess.

derustun · December 15, 2009

that's gorgeous!

kagayakitecture · December 14, 2009

Wow... Amazing... I adore it a lot..

ab hlym · December 14, 2009

good fusion so nice

Juni · December 13, 2009

They usually do great job. This one is really nice.

joer · December 13, 2009

really amazing

mycenaeanapollo · December 13, 2009

The idea is nice, but that will be an eyesore within a couple of decades. Hideous.

Sungjin · December 13, 2009

SOM - St. Albans School

Tosh · December 13, 2009

Good old 60s. Loads of thermal bridging, glass and concrete usually. Times when nobody really cared about anything at all. We can - we do.

Derek · December 13, 2009

Agreed, they blend the old and new nicely. The exterior stone choice is what really makes it work. Nice to see that aesthetic is still timeless.

Lgfvanderveen · December 12, 2009

Really great interaction between old and new! Also the use of material and landscaping is very nice!

Pierre Batbatian · December 12, 2009

i love how they mixed the old with the new, montreal should learn from them ...

scarpasez · December 12, 2009

Outstanding registration of context without kowtowing. Great work.

ArchitecturePassion · December 12, 2009

St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill: In 2006, with its centennial approaching, St. Albans School..

Home Decor News · December 12, 2009

St. Albans School / Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill


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