The new downtown home of the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies was recently highlighted in ArchitectureDC, a publication of the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The article, Branching Out: Georgetown Goes Modern with New School of Continuing Studies, appeared in the Spring 2014 issue as part of the cover story on inspirational academic spaces.
Walter Rankin, Ph.D., the interim dean of SCS, is quoted as saying that the bright and spacious new building “reimagines what an educational environment can be” while positioning SCS for “continued growth and success.”
Choosing the Space
The article begins by describing how Georgetown selected the space at 640 Massachusetts Avenue, the site of a former video production studio. Unlike other office buildings in the Gallery Place/Chinatown neighborhood, this location offered a column-free, cavernous area that intrigued the staff and architects when they first toured it.
Brian Pilot, AIA, a principal at STUDIOS Architecture, proposed a central atrium that visually connects the ground floor entry with the mezzanine above and two levels below.
- The mezzanine houses a faculty lounge and non-denominational chapel.
- The ground level leads to the main auditorium with seating for 130 people.
- The lower two levels include more than 30 classrooms, a café, lounge, media center and study nooks.
Planning the Atrium
“The atrium is the key to the success of the entire project,” states author G. Martin Moeller, Jr, Associate AIA. “The generous use of white materials and finishes in the space was no mere aesthetic whim, but a deliberate effort to bring as much light as possible into the depths of the building.” He points out that the classrooms are remarkably bright thanks to the use of glass partitions.
The large-scale art, modern LED lighting, colorful furnishings and other design choices add visual interest and functionality to the atrium, the “hub” of the school. Students visiting the Café Commons enjoy the plentiful gathering and study spaces as well as an irregularly shaped platform that can be used for informal seating or a stage.
Connecting to the Neighborhood
STUDIOS Architecture was not only involved in the selection of the site and the design of the space, but also connecting it to the surrounding properties with some curb appeal. Working with the Brookfield Properties, the building’s owner, they replaced a portion of the existing façade with a two-story, glass curtain wall. The adjacent sidewalk also received a makeover by Lee & Associates, a landscape architecture firm.
Everyone involved with the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies is excited about the move to a vibrant, Metro-accessible neighborhood. Students, faculty, and staff are steps away from popular restaurants and cafés, retail shops, museums, theaters and famous monuments and landmarks. Students hold internships at numerous nearby companies, nonprofits and civic institutions.
“We have so many more learning resources and opportunities in the downtown DC neighborhood,” says Dr. Rankin, the interim dean. “We are taking full advantage of the new location.”
Architecture DC article
Campus Life at Georgetown-SCS