Van Ness Elementary School Washington, DC


Located in the heart of the historic Navy Yard in Washington DC, Van Ness Elementary School has undergone a dramatic transformation. The design team worked with several DC government agencies, parent groups and local residents to develop designs for a complete renovation and addition for the school and surrounding community.

Bradley Site Design developed a site program and design that transforms the campus into a multisensory experience, integrating education and recreation into every part of the site.

The building frames an east-facing courtyard, offering opportunities for theme gardens, experimental plots, rain water capture and re-use, and a variety of active and passive recreation areas. Drawing on the historic context of the Navy Yard and boat-building industry, and capitalizing on the proximity to the Anacostia River, BSD has created a sequence of spaces that relate to nautical aspects, experiential learning and environmental awareness and stewardship. Stormwater capture and re-use systems have been integrated in playful and interactive ways, including intermittent stream beds, lushly planted bioretention areas, and a water feature that students can activate with pumps. Separate play areas for different age groups, universal access and changes in grade are handled with a subtle hand.

Different areas of the campus have been designed for a variety of classroom group sizes and flexible programming, so the campus spaces can evolve with the school curricula and traditions.

The BSD team is gathering Design Impact data and will share the information with school staff to incorporate into environmental literacy units, hopefully spurring further exploration.

DC Public Schools

$12 million (Phase 1)

Project Manager
Bel St. John Day

Image Credit
JDLand (2)
George Brown (1, 3, 5-8)