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Tour: Duke Ellington School of Arts

Join AIA|DC for this exclusive tour showcasing the transformation of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts into a top tier facility that matches the school’s reputation while accomodating its growing needs. 

Originally built in 1898 as Western Public School, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. The modernization project balances restoring and respecting the historic character of the original buildings while creating new academic and performance venues, expanding the overall complex from its original 175,000 to 265,000 square feet. The design seeks to express and expose what goes on inside, promoting interdepartmental awareness and collaboration, and inviting the neighborhood in to experience the fruits of its diverse pre-professional programs. New, contemporary construction is woven in and around the restored historic building fabric to accommodate the large studios, performance and rehearsal spaces, and typical high school facilities which are complimented by exterior elements such as the outdoor Plaza placed at the top of the gently sloping front lawn, the Media Center Terrace sheltered under the grand two-story portico, and the Education Terrace on the Ellington Theater Roof with its spectacular views across the city.

Presented by:

Chris Graae, FAIA - cg+s architects
Chris Ambridge, AIA - cg+s architects
Gabe Oliver - GCS|Sigal


After attending the course, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the design-build team's problem-solving efforts and challenges during the design and renovation of a school on the National Register of Historic Places;
  • Describe how the team utilized BIM modeling and 3D Laser scanning for the complex design and construction of the iconic Ellington Theater;
  • Summarize the unique challenges and benefits of designing desirable units within the existing office building framework; and
  • Discuss how to start designing a walk-able community within a heavily suburban complex.