Lab School Library

The Lab School of Washington

Washington, DC

Award of Merit, AIA Northern Virginia


The Lab School Washington serves students with learning differences through a unique art-based education that seeks alternatives to traditional classroom instruction. This project provided a new library and media center that facilitates multiple methods for learning while still celebrating the importance of books as part of a complete educational experience. Three existing classrooms were set aside to create a library of 4000 volumes. While budget and space constraints were tight, the real challenge was designing a library for a student population for whom words can be indecipherable puzzles and libraries a mystery.


Careful study of the space needed for circulation and book perusal revealed that double-sided rotating bookcases would hold twice the amount of books and also eliminate clutter.  These rotating bookcases also proved to be enjoyable and appealing to the children.  The optimized bookcase arrangement coincided with the buildings existing longitudinal concrete beams, eliminating the need for structural reinforcement.


Materials were selected to promote healthy indoor spaces for children. Felt ceiling panels are made of wool (100% renewable resource), wood floors are from managed forests, laminate millwork is formaldehyde free (no added urea-formaldehyde), carpet tiles conform with low VOC standards, and the steel has high recycled content, is regionally sourced, and locally manufactured.