Van Ness Elementary School highlights thoughtfully integrated outdoor spaces that revitalize a previously disconnected school campus and become opportunities for learning. To support the rapidly growing neighborhood, the project is a case study for adaptive reuse, integration of new modern addition and the preservation of a historic field house.

Studio Name: ISTUDIO Architects
Design Team: Rick Schneider, FAIA | Daniel Blair, AIA | Vivek Sarma, AIA | Sara Al Khatib
Area: 64,953 sf
Year: 2018
Location: Washington, DC


  • Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical Engineers: Global Engineering Solutions
  • Structural Engineers: Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger Engineers
  • Civil Engineers: Morton Thomas & Associates
  • Technology Consultants: Educational Systems Planning
  • General Contractor: Broughton Construction

Photography Credits: Kris Ilich Photography & ISTUDIO Architects

Van Ness Elementary School by ISTUDIO Architects - Sheet3
©Kris Ilich Photography & ISTUDIO Architects

With a tight urban site and the myriad of AHJ requirements, the design team used storm water management to engage the students with the cycles of nature. The historic fieldhouse is renovated to take advantage of natural ventilation allowing the building to breath naturally, saving on operating costs and energy use.

Van Ness Elementary School by ISTUDIO Architects - Sheet5
©Kris Ilich Photography & ISTUDIO Architects

With the quick deadline of a school start date, the design team coordinated multiple site phases and worked with the community, DC HPO, CFA, DC Water and DDOT to ensure regulations and needs were being met.

Van Ness Elementary School by ISTUDIO Architects - Sheet7
©Kris Ilich Photography & ISTUDIO Architects

Additionally, the Assistant Principal notes that the outdoor classroom allowed them to keep music class going during Covid as students could sing unmasked maintaining a critical component of the DCPS Framework for the Arts Learning. As the world and industry rethink enclosed spaces during the pandemic – Van Ness Elementary highlights robust exterior spaces designed for curriculum and flexible enough to adapt to the 21st century learning for staff and students.


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