Quaker Meeting House and Arts Center, Sidwell Friends School | 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.

Additional Credits

  • Acoustical Consultant: K2 Audio
  • Client Representative: JFW Project Management
  • Cost Estimator: International Consultants, Inc.
  • Engineer - Civil: VIKA, Inc.
  • Engineer - Geotechnical: GeoConcepts Engineering, Inc.
  • Engineer - MEP: Bruce E. Brooks & Associates
  • Engineer - Structural: CVM Engineers
  • General Contractor: The Whiting Turner Contracting Company
  • Landscape Architect: Studio Bryan Hanes
  • Lighting Consultant: ARUP
  • Specifications Consultant: Wilson Consulting
  • Surveyor: A. Morton Thomas and Associates

Photo Credit

    © Michael Moran Studio

Quaker Meeting House and Arts Center, Sidwell Friends School

  • Architect: KieranTimberlake
  • Owner: Sidwell Friends School
  • Location: Washington, D.C.

Jury Comments

A beautiful project that is very well detailed and imagined. A remarkable transformation.

The obsolete building is thankfully lost in the new one; the new one is open, bright, and engaging.

The exterior is masterfully handled with subtle gestures that give it interest and shape. The architect manages to create a landmark building on the site while simultaneously transforming the interior spaces into an effective worship space.

Fascinating use of light and molding of space. Beautiful reinterpretation with a sensitive vernacular touch.

Great sustainability strategies and results.

2014 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury

  • Scott Wolf, FAIA (Chair)
  • The Miller Hull Partnership LLP
  • Seattle
  • Natalye Appel, FAIA
  • Natalye Appel + Associates Architects
  • Houston
  • Mary Brush, AIA
  • Brush Architects, LLC
  • Chicago
  • Joy Coleman, AIA
  • Treanor Architects
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Robert M. Hon
  • AIAS Student Representative
  • Savannah
  • Brenda A. Levin, FAIA
  • Levin & Associates Architects
  • Los Angeles
  • Michael J. Mills, FAIA
  • Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC
  • Princeton, New Jersey
  • G. Martin Moeller, Assoc. AIA
  • National Building Museum
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Ed Soltero, AIA
  • Office of the University Architect - Arizona State University
  • Tempe, Arizona

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