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The Lab School of Washington, D.C.

Fitting a new addition into a unique school

Washington, D.C.

Modern schools have a particular model for education. This model is set up around a regimen of knowledge that’s distributed to students in uniform servings. Designed for the majority, serving the majority well. But it’s not the only model. Those students who are not fairly served by standard schools—students on the edges, in the margins—find standard schools to be narrow, frustrating, limiting.

The Lab School turns conventional schooling on its head. Instead of teaching to encourage engagement, it looks for unique ways to engage its students before they learn. With art-infused and project-based approaches to instruction, the Lab School serves those students with unique learning styles and needs.

So when we were called on to design a four-story addition to the campus, we had to build with those values in mind.

We created a mix of individual, small group collaborative, and large group spaces. Places that serve the needs of contemporary learners. There’s a student commons for social events, group (and quiet) study, presentations, and performances. The school and its neighbors appreciated the rigor that we employed while designing this addition, and the project received unanimous approval by the board of zoning appeals—an uncommon result that underscores this success.

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