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“Architectural triumph” at GW’s Corcoran School of the Arts & Design
In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tim Duffy, AIA, and Jess Kim, RA, discuss LEO A DALY’s renovation of a beloved Washington, D.C. landmark
Excerpted from the Chronicle of Higher Education article by Lawrence Biemiller:
In Washington, the landmark building was called simply “the Corcoran” when it housed both a beloved museum and an art school. Now an intricate makeover has turned former galleries into classrooms and the old coal bunker into a woodworking shop.
A Beaux-Arts Landmark Gets Updates Both Inventive and Invisible
Often the most complicated parts of a campus project go unseen by all but a handful of facilities staffers allowed behind locked doors and into attics and basements. So let’s take a moment to celebrate the newest architectural triumph in Washington that almost no one will ever visit: a four-story, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of structural steel, modern air-handling units, ductwork, and emergency stairs, all shoehorned into a modest light well between the 1897 and 1928 wings of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.
“What we did in that courtyard was incredibly difﬁcult,” says Timothy J. Duffy, vice president and director of technical services at the architecture ﬁrm LEO A DALY, which has overseen extensive — and essential — renovations to the art school’s home. “You come to embrace these challenges.”
The project, which began in 2016, has offered more than its fair share of challenges. When the Corcoran Gallery and College of Art + Design was dissolved, in 2014, after years of ﬁnancial struggles, the outdated buildings and the lively art school were taken over by George Washington U. The plan was to consolidate the art school, then spread out among seven locations, in the Corcoran buildings, while also retaining the most magniﬁcent of the former museum’s galleries for use by the National Gallery of Art, which inherited the lion’s share of the Corcoran’s collections.
The 138,000-square-foot project had to be done on a tight budget — it was value-engineered from $80 million down to $53 million — and the classrooms had to be kept open for use. To complicate matters, the site is in the crowded heart of downtown Washington, just two blocks from the White House. And the main building, designed by Ernest Flagg, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is protected by District of Columbia preservation rules. “To put one nail in a wall, we had to get three reviews,” says Jess Kim, senior project architect for LEO A DALY.
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