Honorable Mention | Institutional Building (Built)

Firm Name: Perkins Eastman
Participant  Name: Kerrie Frymire
Country : USA

Located just a few blocks from the US Capitol, the new Dunbar Senior High School strives to provide an environment that will catalyze the renewal of one of the nation’s most historic schools. Founded in 1870, Dunbar was the first high school for African-Americans in the country and its roster of alumni include hundreds of people of extraordinary accomplishment ranging from the first African-American member of a Presidential cabinet to DC’s current Mayor and Congressperson. However, like many urban high schools, over the past generation Dunbar has struggled. This project is about recapturing Dunbar’s heritage while looking to the future.

The new building is the third to be built on this site for the school. The first, built in 1917 in a monumental Collegiate Gothic style, in its time provided state-of-the-art academic facilities. Organized around an armory that became a crossroads and the place for social events such as dances, the armory quickly became the “heart of the school” memorialized in many year book photos and passages. The 1917 building was replaced in 1977 by a towering, introverted Brutalist, open plan building. With few windows, horrible acoustics, and convoluted circulation, the 1977 building was at odds with the program from its opening. Likewise, this building sat astride, and closed O Street NW, part of DC’s historic L’Enfant Plan, cutting off two sides of the surrounding neighborhood.

In 2009, the District held a design competition to select the designer for a building that would replace the 1977 building, help catalyze the school’s concurrent academic renewal, and reengage the community. The winning design ­­- inspired by the 1917 building’s civic presence, its “heart” and its clear academic “neighborhoods” – returned the school to its original location on the east side of the campus and is reopening O Street as a model sustainable street.
While metaphorically building on history, the new building is also decidedly of the 21st Century, fostering four new academies including an innovative 9th grade academy and encouraging active community use. Organized around a new “Armory,” the design creates sustainable, high performance learning environments that support the transformation of the school’s academic program, enhance the energy performance of the school within the larger inventory, help mitigate chronic local flooding during storm events, and educate the next generation of environmental stewards.

Designed to achieve LEED® for Schools Platinum certification, the school features a ground source heat pump (geothermal) system, a 482kW photovoltaic array, two 20,000 gallon cisterns for reusing rainwater, enhanced acoustics, low VOC materials, and plentiful daylight and views. Each of these systems come together within the school’s aspiration to engage the building as a teaching tool. Pre-Engineering classes participated in the design and construction process and are now poised to integrate the building and its systems into their curriculum. The students are also training to lead the tours of their LEED platinum building, sharing what they have learned with peers and visitors.

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