Ribbon Cutting at American University’s Newest Building

The School of International Service Building is a Transparent Hub of Connectivity and a Campus Catalyst

May 19, 2010, Washington, DC – William McDonough + Partners is proud to announce that a ceremonial ribbon cutting was held last Friday by the Board of Trustees of American University (AU) to celebrate the university’s new School of International Service (SIS) building. The 75,000-square-foot project, which includes classrooms, offices, student cafe, underground parking and a library expansion, will officially open in the fall.

Architect Kevin Burke of William McDonough + Partners spoke at the ribbon-cutting, praising AU’s administration and facilities department, SIS Dean Goodman and his staff, and collaborating firm Quinn Evans Architects and the entire design team for their vision and tenacity in making this project a reality. He noted that the anticipated LEED certification is cause for celebration. “LEED Gold is a great achievement, and the anticipated performance of the building and its sustainability technologies are noteworthy. But LEED doesn’t account for the creation of community and connectivity, which this building does in spades. It really celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the SIS community.”

The School of International Service engaged William McDonough + Partners to expand on the pedagogical values exemplified in the firm’s previous institutional work, which includes the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College. SIS challenged the McDonough team to create architecture that embodies global vision and a socio-cultural agenda, while also creating a design that is responsive to its context on the AU campus quad.

Serving as a symbol of the school’s tradition of global service, the building provides a vibrant setting for teaching, research and public dialogue. Students, faculty and staff played an active role in defining design strategies, increasing the visibility of the teaching component of the program, and developing the final design of the building’s exterior frieze inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map. Design strategies include on-site generation of renewable energy (7,000 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels power the city’s first LED-lit parking garage), solar thermal hot water heating, solar pre-heat of fresh air (also the city’s first project to use these three solar applications in one facility).The building also boasts rainwater harvesting for building use and landscape irrigation, and low-flow faucets and fixtures to reduce water consumption.

“With Dean Goodman’s encouragement, we envisioned a building to inspire ideas as grand as the ones being discussed within the classrooms and halls—justice, peace, and global community,” said architect Katherine Grove, project manager on the William McDonough + Partners’ team. The three-story atrium is the hub for those activities: it serves as a gracious, flexible convening space—with copious daylight—for all sorts of events. Overall, the building’s transparency and visual connectivity speak most clearly about the mission of the SIS community whose lives and livelihoods depend on connectivity writ on a global scale.

“We are very proud to have been part of this special project,” Burke said at the event. “It is rewarding to see the building begin to serve as a nexus of connectivity and activity on the campus, and a beacon of hope to the world.”

Client American University

Team William McDonough + Partners, Design Architect
Quinn Evans | Architects, Architect of Record
Taylor Engineering, Design Mechanical Engineer
GHT Limited, Mechanical Engineer of Record
McMullan Associates, Structural Engineer
Loisos + Ubbelohde Associates, Daylighting Consultant
Delon Hampton & Associates, Civil Engineer
Sustainable Design Consulting, LEED Consultant
PEG, Fire Code and Suppression Consultant
Conceptual Site Furnishings, Frieze Panel Fabrication