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virginia commercial property

Commercial Property of the Week

04.11.19

BIG—Bjarke Ingels Group has designed its first public school, which welcomed its first students in Arlington, Virginia, this school year. Called The Heights Building, the structure merges two existing secondary schools under one roof into an 180,000-square-foot home that can accommodate up to 775 students.

Located on a compact urban plot, the building appears to twist up from the ground, with rectangular volumes stacked fanlike atop one another, resulting in spacious terraces connected by a central stair. BIG covered the finished structure with a smooth, white brick, devised to honor the historic architecture of nearby Alexandria. "Where the outside is materialized in a graceful white glazed brick allowing the sculptural form and the energy and activity of the inside to take center stage, the interior spaces are finished in a rainbow of colors providing an intuitive orientation across all levels from the ground to the sky," says Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative director of BIG. The AD100 firm worked with Leo A. Daly, who was the executive architect for the project.

Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu

The project adds to a major year for the firm’s campus projects. The Heights is BIG’s fourth school completed within the last academic year, and its first in the mid-Atlantic. (Other projects include the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Glasir Tórshavn College on the Faroe Islands, and WeWork’s WeGrow in New York.)

Heady architectural language aside, Ingels affirms that the presence of students is what truly brings a school to life. "I’m excited to see that the students have already made the school their own—not only have the walls become a canvas for their creativity, but also the glass façades!” he added. For what else is a sign of learning?

Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu

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