- Associate Architect:Ayers Saint Gross
- Civil Engineer:Wilen Mensch Corporation
- Mep / Fp Engineer:Affliated Engineers Inc
- Elevator Consultant:Zipf Associates, Inc.
- Acoustical / Audiovisual:Shen Milsom Wilke
- Code Consultant:Rolf Jensen & Associates
- Fire Protection Consultant:R.W. Sullivan Engineering
- Fire Engineer:Affiliated Engineers Inc
- Audiovisual:Shen Milsom & Wilke
- Country:United States
Text description provided by the architects. Program
Founded in 1997, the School of Public Health at this University has occupied space in various university buildings and several leased locations in and around its dense urban campus. This project, a signature new home for the School, was intended to create a singular identity to the general public and define a new campus edge.
The program includes offices for academic departments and School administration, 15 general purpose active learning classrooms ranging in size from 20 — 75 seats, 3 auditoriums, a convening center with 4 meeting rooms and retractable walls for flexibility, and numerous student study, lounge and kitchenette spaces. A suite of laboratories and multipurpose spaces for the School’s exercise science department was also required.
Located just blocks from the White House, the triangular site sits on Washington Circle, one of Washington DC’s iconic public spaces. The site is also bounded by New Hampshire Avenue and K Street, both grand boulevards in L’Enfant’s 1791 urban plan for the Capital, as well as 24th Street, which marks the site’s transition into the historic Foggy Bottom district. The site’s southern tip was preserved to expand and improve an existing neighborhood park.
The triangular geometry of the site was very unusual. At its center, the site footprint was 140 feet in width (too deep for daylight penetration into the interior), but tapered to an acute angle at its southern tip. Strict zoning regulations capped the allowable floor area, stipulated that 90% of the site be covered by the new structure, and imposed a 90-foot maximum height limitation. Initially envisioned by the University as a 6 story building with full floor plates, the design team proposed to insert a 7th floor within the allowable zoning envelope by reducing the typical floor to floor height to 12-feet.
While at first glance the building appears willfully complex, it is a highly rigorous and innovative solution to the irregular geometry of the site. The range of space types required by the program, an intrinsic commitment to sustainable design principles and a deep conviction that an academic building should help to foster intimate connections between students and faculty also drove the design.
The use of an exposed post-tensioned, cast-in-place concrete structural system (selected for its ability to span classrooms of varying sizes with relatively shallow depth) enabled portions of each floor level to be selectively removed without exceeding allowed building area, creating the opportunity for numerous floor openings that drive daylight deep into the building’s core and permit an array of views across, down and up through the building.
Elevators are partially concealed from view behind a woven stainless steel screen, and a generous open stairway zigzags its way up and down the building, encouraging physical activity. The building’s terracotta rainscreen façade, installed on a unitized curtainwall system, is composed of tall vertical tiles which feature a customized pattern of projecting ribs. Depending upon sun position, variations in the shadows created by these ribs subtly alter the building’s appearance over the course of the day, enriching the experience of repetitive encounters with it.