Gallaudet University

The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center

Washington, D.C.

The deaf live in a rich sensory world with heightened visual-tactile means of spatial orientation and visual language. The culture is built around a shared language, life experiences, and cognitive sensibilities. The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University sought to nurture the sensory-rich world and shared experiences of the deaf community through the design of its residence hall for students attending the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD). Beyond housing its students, the new 3-story, 80,000 square foot residence hall creates an iconic campus space for the MSSD that strengthens the relationship to the existing campus buildings. This new courtyard, which is the center piece of the MSSD campus plan, is defined by porous edges that open to views or public spaces within the buildings. Around the courtyard green, gentle steps create seating for informal gathering or outdoor instruction. A rain garden makes the storm-water cycle legible for teachers and students. The courtyard is sized to be an intimate campus space, free of visual obstruction. The concrete framed, brick fa├žade follows the topography to reduce its apparent height and allow for seamless and accessible connection between interior and exterior spaces.