Exterior view of the Sidwell Friends School Meeting House; Exterior view of the Sidwell Friends School Meeting House;

Sidwell Friends School Meeting House, Washington, DC

Lighting design for an educational building tailored to the project's themes of light and simplicity.

Two important themes of the Quaker faith, light and simplicity, were central to the design of a new meeting house. Originally a gymnasium, the building was converted and expanded into a worship space and arts education centre for the Sidwell Friends School campus.

Arup’s careful balance of daylight and electric lighting created a subtle but dramatic effect appropriate to the building’s spiritual function. On the exterior, pools of soft light reflected onto the ground and surrounding walls extend a friendly invitation to enter.

In the hallways and lobby areas, asymmetric cove lights angled to complement the dropped ceiling panels spread light outside while providing balanced interior illumination. Concealed track lighting directs attention to student art and historical displays.

For the building’s largest space, the Quaker meeting room, we created a lighting scheme to complement the dominant feature, a large, symbolic central skylight framed by KieranTimberlake’s floating architectural planes.

Our design maintains the elegance of the room both with and without daylight. Each electric lighting element is controlled independently, allowing the school to tailor the lighting for different times of day, projection onto walls, and supplemental illumination of orators.

The design takes into account the need for simple upkeep and sustainability. We specified highly energy-efficient, easy to maintain lamps throughout the building, leading to a 20% reduction in electricity demand from worship space code allowance.

The project targeted LEED Platinum certification.