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Sense of Place

District House at The George Washington University

Mega-dorm accommodates nearly 900 students and has a performing arts center
University Business, October 2016
Mega-flexible: District House is centrally located and designed to be accessed by all students, not just residents. Modular furniture allows design and usage flexibility for residents.
Mega-flexible: District House is centrally located and designed to be accessed by all students, not just residents. Modular furniture allows design and usage flexibility for residents.

District House, The George Washington University’s new residence hall, overlooks historic sites in the nation’s capital.

A 12-story, 342,000-square-foot mega-dorm, it accommodates nearly 900 students and includes six dining franchises, conference rooms, a performing arts center and campus food pantry. The energy-efficient structure, which uses LED lighting exclusively and has low-flow plumbing, is targeting LEED certification.

Challenge

Space to expand the 26,000-student university was scarce in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, which lies within blocks of the White House and in view of the Washington Monument. The real estate that was available was expensive.

Any construction also had to take into account the historical surroundings; plus, administrators wanted both on-campus residents and commuter students to take advantage of the new residence hall.

“In our 2007 campus plan, we talked about going up, not out, as our commitment to being good neighbors within the community,” says Seth Weinshel, assistant dean of students for housing and financial services. “So we filled in and went higher.”

Solution

District House combined and expanded three former residence halls. What essentially had been an alley between the buildings was absorbed into the new residence hall and four stories were added to each of the existing structures, creating an additional 40,000 square feet of space and a denser center of campus.

The historic exterior facades were preserved, while interiors were completely renovated.

In addition to doubles and four-person apartments, there are “affinity housing” units where 16 to 20 students affiliated with specific campus organizations—such as the university band—can live together. Multipurpose furniture allows students flexibility in arranging living spaces.

Six public dining franchises, including Wiseguy NY Pizza, Chick-fil-A and Sol Mexican Grill, are on site, as well as The Store, a food pantry for students who struggle with food insecurity.

“District House is smack dab in the middle of our campus,” says Weinshel. “There shouldn’t be a single person who is a member of our community who doesn’t use the space.”

  • COMPLETED: August 2016
  • COST: $130 million
  • PROJECT TEAM: Architect: Ayers Saint Gross (Baltimore, Md.); construction manager: Clark Construction (Bethesda, Md.)

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