VMDO Architects

VMDO Architects

Charlottesville, VA | Washington, DC


George Washington University Thurston Hall

As the largest first-year residence hall at The George Washington University, Thurston Hall is the first impression that many students receive at GW. Its role in providing a high quality living-learning experience is critical to creating a sense of identity and community for GW's Foggy Bottom campus.

In spring 2019, VMDO's concept for Thurston Hall's renovation was selected as the winning design as part of an invited competition. The design carves out a central courtyard that brings the rhythms of the District into the heart of the building. With the intent to draw students out of their rooms and into opportunities to live, learn, and develop as an inclusive community, the building’s design integrates academic and social experiences around a lively central spine with views, clear orientation, and destinations for collaboration.

Interlaced with this sense of community is a connection to the Foggy Bottom campus and DC’s urban context. Plaza, terrace, garden, and rooftop settings nourish interpersonal connections and frame views to the District. As a threshold to the city and the GW Student Experience, a reinvigorated Thurston Hall will connect students to each other, to their studies, and to the worldclass offerings of GW’s vibrant urban and academic context.

A glass canopy protects the courtyard from the elements and allows the courtyard to become a three-season atrium usable throughout most of the year. Organizing the building’s public spaces around the courtyard brings natural light and views to all of the primary gathering spaces of the building. Meanwhile, a diverse collection of social and academic spaces – including student lounges, study spaces, and outdoor terraces – create a vibrant interior life.

Distributed in inventive and surprising ways around the perimeter of the courtyard, the glass of these gathering spaces works in concert with a variety of cladding materials to create a rich and visually compelling interior environment.

Through this transparency, students can orient themselves to where they are within the building and easily find the opportunities they need to study, socialize, and learn with their peers. A sequence of inter-connected views knits the public spaces together and strengthens a sense of common experience among the many residents and occupants of the building. Breaking down the Hall’s density through a variety of healthy, light-filled, and flexible student-centered spaces, the renovation creates clear orientation around a central courtyard with destinations for collaboration that infuse the building with a vital sense of energy and placemaking.

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Status: Unbuilt
Location: Washington, DC, US
Firm Role: Prime Architect