Lab School Student Commons

The Lab School of Washington

Washington, DC


This project entailed the adaptive reuse of an antiquated cafeteria and commercial kitchen. Although centrally located, the space was entirely under-utilized. With the majority of students spending their lunchtime in the classroom, the cafeteria space was primarily used for dance, creative movement, and gymnastics. Given its central location, students would still often circulate through the space at various times of the school day. The location, and its proximity to the outdoor courtyard, provided an opportunity to recapture this area for a broader and more appropriate use.


GBR Architects transformed the dark and unwelcoming space into a café-like Commons to be used throughout the day for a variety of activities: lunchtime for students, gatherings before and after school, additional instructional and presentation space, meetings with faculty and parents, and extra-curricular events like dances and small assemblies. Furniture was selected to provide for maximum flexibility, including a custom-designed moveable banquette. Ceilings and lighting systems were designed to highlight artwork throughout the Commons. The transformation was completed by the removal of existing single pane windows and replacing them with large folding glass walls, connecting directly to covered patio seating and the landscaped courtyard beyond.