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Washington Elementary School

  • Client:

    Tacoma Public Schools

  • Completion:


  • Location:

    Tacoma, WA

  • Type:

    Historic Rehabilitation & Additions

  • Size:

    58,500 SF

  • Construction Cost:



Rehabilitating a landmarked neighborhood school

A cherished icon in its North Tacoma community, Washington Elementary School has served generations of students since opening its doors in 1906. A national, state and municipal landmarked building, the interweaving of Washington’s rich architectural, educational and historic legacy served as the underpinning for the thoughtful rehabilitation and expansion of this much loved neighborhood school.

Washington ES_2

Adding capacity on a small neighborhood site

The client sought to consolidate the programs and students of two schools, Washington Elementary School (grades 1-5) and a nearby primary school (kindergarten) into one facility. The challenge was how to accommodate expanded program needs in a small historically landmarked building on less than two acres bordered in all directions by public streets, residences and commercial properties.

Washington ES_3

Accommodating landmarks & zoning restrictions

The challenge of meeting these directives was compounded by the multiple jurisdiction landmarks approval process for alterations to the historic building and site, and neighborhood zoning restrictions that precluded building on the existing outdoor play space.


A creative solution to adding more space: under not upward

The design solution, an addition excavated beneath the playground, preserved outdoor play space and accommodated both landmark and neighborhood zoning restrictions.

Wasington ES_5

Preserving architectural and historic character

The rehabilitation design accommodated Grades 1-5 in the historic building and Kindergarten in the underground addition. To expand space for support programs including the library, cafeteria and gymnasium, historically non-significant additions were removed and two new additions were integrated on site.

Washington ES_6

Integrating old and new

Glass ‘hyphens’ connect new construction to the historic structure, imparting cohesiveness to the overall architectural expression and creating a light-filled lunchroom and after-hours lobby that serves as an inspirational demarcation between old and new.

Washington ES_7

Reorganizing and connecting space

The main entrance and administration office were relocated, creating an accessible entry and outdoor courtyard for school and community functions. A vertical lift door opens the gymnasium onto the courtyard, enhancing the space’s capacity and appeal for neighborhood events, and creating indoor/outdoor connectivity for students.


Accommodating contemporary educational needs

No longer limited to enclosed, segregated classrooms typical of early 20th century school design, learning now happens everywhere at Washington Elementary School.

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