Anacostia Senior High School

Submitted by Suman Sorg

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Client: DC Department of General Services

Location: Washington, DC, United States

Completion date: 2012

Project Team

Architect

Suman Sorg

Sorg Architects - Suman Sorg

Artist

Sheila Crider

Artist

Roberto Delgado

Overview

Originally constructed in the 1930s with subsequent additions in the 1950s and 1970s, Anacostia High School was in a state of severe disrepair, with classrooms burned out or flooded and nonfunctional building systems. At one time the image of a community's loss, Anacostia High School seemed destined to be torn down. However, a preservation approach was adopted to save this significant historic structure and breathe new life into the school and community. This project encompasses 200,000 square feet and the use of innovative green building strategies for existing and historic structures resulted in a new school facility that is LEED
Gold.

Goals

Upon engaging with the local community, it became clear that the future of Anacostia Senior High School and the future of the people it serves were one in the same. When the Anacostia community asked for a new High School that would serve as a functional and symbolic “window to the future,” Architect and artist Suman Sorg, FAIA developed a concept design that enabled the renovated building to become a canvas for the identity of the students. Commissioned works by artists Sheila Crider, and Roberto Delgado responded with a mixture of celebratory artwork that compliments the students own work woven through the design throughout the school facility. These combined efforts for the renovation of the building included art panels in the corridors and mobile art sculptures for the cafeteria. The original building, built in 1935 was an obsolete, unsafe structure that was not conducive to a productive learning environment. The goal was to brighten up each space through dynamic color, encourage students to leave a positive mark on their school, promote school pride, and engage the local community through arts. The building now stands within this underserved Washington, DC neighborhood as a prominent civic building emblematic of a hopeful future.

Process

Art Panels – These panels were funded by the DC Commission of Arts and Humanities and designed by Sheila Crider, an artist from the local community. For one week she taught a modern art class to Anacostia High School students and showed them how to craft unique pieces. Afterwards, she silk screened all of the pieces for architectural project managers to select from. 21 out of 70 pieces were chosen, scanned as high resolution images, printed on 34” x 48” durable outdoor vinyl panels and placed in the corridor hallways.
Mobile Art – The DC Commission of Arts and Humanities conducted a national competition in search of an artist to create mobile artwork for the school cafeteria. To spark inspiration and gain a better understanding of the task, Roberto Delgado, the selected artist, visited Ward 8 in Washington DC and the school. The result was a sequence of letters that spell out ‘AGITATE’, a word Frederick Douglas believed would help young people move forward through life and activate change. Since the cafeteria is used by the community, as well as students, these sculptures were designed specifically for this space.

Additional Information

The transformation of Anacostia High School has reverberated through the school and wider community. Sorg Architects takes pride in the feedback we have received: "Last year i missed a few days of school, but the way this new school makes me feel, I don't think I'll be missing any days this year" - Anacostia Student. "The architect listened attentively to our hopes, dreams, wants, and needs." - Principal Gwendolyn Payton