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Johns Hopkins transforms a former museum into a learning and research center

Higher Education

Johns Hopkins transforms a former museum into a learning and research center

The 10-floor facility houses a new school for government and policy.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | October 19, 2023
The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center in Washington D.C.
The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center in Washington, D.C. brings together many of the institution's divisions. Image: Jennifer Hughes

In June 2020, Johns Hopkins University completed its $372.5 million acquisition of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., which had closed the year before. A $275 million renovation of that building resulted in the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center, a higher education facility that brings together many of the university’s divisions within a building redesigned as a vertical campus for transparency and sustainability.

The 435,000-ft facility opened last August at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue at the heart of the nation’s capital. It is anchored by Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, its Carey Business School, its Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Peabody Institute, and the newly launched School of Government and Policy. The Center’s mission, stated Johns Hopkins, is to “connect the worlds of research and policy, educate future leaders and innovators, convene a range of viewpoints to foster discovery and dialogue, and bring a fresh infusion of artistic expression.”

A stacked assemblage of classrooms within Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center.
A stacked assemblage of glass-enclosed classrooms hovers over an open vertical quad within the Bloomberg Center. Image: Alan Karchmer/OTTO

More than 3,000 students, faculty, researchers, and staff come through this 10-story building daily. The Center allocates 300,000 sf of its interior space to learning, with 38 high-tech classrooms of varying capacities. On the east side of the building’s seven-story-tall interior atrium, a 20x27-ft “floating” glass classroom hangs from a pair of bridge girders. On the west side of the atrium rises a 70-ft treehouse-like stacked assemblage of classrooms and open lounges.

The atrium is anchored by a sloped seating area called The Beach, a nod to the grassy space at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus in Baltimore.

Ennead gets another shot at an old project

Inside the Center as well are the Irene and Richard Frary Library on its second floor, an event space called The Link on its fourth floor, a 3,350-sf multimedia suite, a fitness and wellness center, a lounge with 435 seats, and a 375-seat theater with a 640-sf stage and 7,000 sf of backstage support. Space has been earmarked for a future restaurant and café.

A rooftop terrace provides a stunning view of Pennsylvania Avenue. image: Alan Karchmer/OTTO

The building’s exterior is encased in an enlarged glass façade and a 50-ft curtainwall that faces Pennsylvania Avenue; pink marble cladding, and 16,888 sf of roof terraces. “As architects, it is a rare opportunity to revisit an earlier design and reimagine it for an entirely new purpose,” said Richard Olcott, FAIA FAAR, Design Partner at Ennead Architects, this Center’s exterior architect, and the original architect of the Newseum.

This project’s building team also included SmithGroup (AOR, lighting design, fire protection, life safety engineering), Rockwell Group (interior architect), Clark Construction (GC), Wiles Mensch (CE), LERA Consulting Structural Engineers (SE), WSP (MEP engineer, fire protection, life safety engineer), Oehme, van Sweden (landscape architect), Babich Acoustics (acoustics), and BrightTree Studios (A/V). MGAC provided project and cost management support.

A reduced carbon footprint

 

A 375-seat performance space features a 640-sf stage. Image: Alan Karchmer/OTTO

Concerning the atrium, Rockwell Group identifies two key insertions: the “Room Stair” that wraps around the building’s glass rooms and lounges; and the “Room Bridge” that houses classrooms and lounge spaces, and bridges both sides of the building.

The building team eliminated 77.8 tons of carbon dioxide from the construction process by using CarbonCure concrete. The team also recycled or diverted from landfills 96.6 percent of the project’s construction waste that, according to SmithGroup, included demolishing 50,000 sf of interior floorplates to make way for 90,000-sf floorplates, and removing the Newseum’s marble exterior panels.

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