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Quaker Meeting House and Arts Center, Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C by KieranTimberlake
January 21st, 2014 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: KieranTimberlake
Sidwell Friends School, a K-12 Quaker school in Washington, D.C., transformed a 1950s gymnasium into a contemplative space for worship, with additional facilities for art and music instruction. The gymnasium had been used as a makeshift worship space for more than a decade; its location on campus was ideal, its acoustics and architecture were not.
Decisions about space, light, and materials were inspired by the Quaker tradition. Daylight was used to organize the space. The Meeting House is focused on a central focal point illuminated from above, with targeted views to the gardens and soft filtered light also coming through on all sides. The materials palette was limited to only wood and plaster. In old meeting houses wood is often used in places where it may be touched; after centuries, it retains its integrity and character. In the new Meeting House, oak from long-unused Maryland barns was used to line the lower walls and floor. The exterior, too, is clad with black locust harvested from a single source in New Jersey.
The site’s nearly cardinal orientation means each elevation faces different environmental factors. Façade treatments respond to such conditions by, for example, moving away from the building on the south side to provide shading, and tucking in close to admit light into the studios on the north side. Systems provide a mixture of passive and active low-energy responses to environmental conditions, which vary from hot and humid to very cold. In addition to the abundant daylight, a photovoltaic array on a southern facing roof covers more than 40 percent of the building’s energy demands.
Landscape elements spiral out into the site to connect the building to its surroundings. The front façade was modified, too, to extend meetings out into the campus. A porch and garden connect the building to the plaza in front of it, a site-planning move also inspired by Quaker tradition.