Lighting the Path to Artistic Inspiration

Jan. 14, 2020
Washington, D.C.
Cox Graae + Spack

Located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., the Duke Ellington School of the Arts is a high school that specializes in arts education.

Founded in 1974 by Peggy Cooper Cafritz and Mike Malone, the school occupies a building originally built in 1898 as Western High School. The District of Columbia Public Schools recently embarked on a multi-million dollar renovation project to modernize the facility and expand from 171,000 to 271,000 sq. ft. The project included the renovation and addition of classrooms, dance and art studios, common areas, a media center and a 300-seat performance hall.

While the primary goal of construction was to add new spaces and modernize the entire building the architect, Cox Graae + Spack, aspired to also retain the historic nature of the unique facility. mcla, the architectural lighting design firm based in Georgetown, was the lead on selecting the lighting to be used on the project in collaboration with One Source Assocs. This project was unique and unlike traditional school projects. To support the architects’ vision, the lighting design deviates from the standard educational template to address the students’ needs.

The lighting design called for high-quality products that would support the intended experience of the space, meet precise light levels in certain areas, perform as advertised and contribute to building code compliance.

Largent from Architectural Area Lighting is being used to illuminate the iconic front entrance of the building. It embodies timeless geometric design capable of precise and comfortable illumination to ensure safety, project a sense of scale and align with the design of the façade.

The 6-in. LightFrame (LC6) downlight from Prescolite is being used to illuminate the entire Ellington Gallery. The glare-free optical control of the LC6 supports the preference for a sleek, minimalist aesthetic that doesn’t bring unwanted attention to the light source. The Ellington Gallery serves as the main gathering area for receptions, book signings and art exhibitions.

LCAT from Columbia Lighting adds elegance to the 2D and 3D Art Studios with the simplicity and modularity in a popular form. The visual comfort of students and faculty was a driving factor in the selection of the lcat for these studios. The high-efficiency acrylic center lens features linear prisms for superior performance without LED pixelation, contributing to the visual comfort of the room without sacrifice to the quality of light.

Megalum is also featured in the Show Choir and Wind Ensemble Studios. The quality of the light in these areas is critical as students and faculty spends countless hours there participating in rehearsals, classes, workshops and even Master Classes. The end result is a building which stands as a tribute to the great Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, a storied and historic past and a celebration of what is to come in the future.

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