Armourcoat polished plaster used in Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Washington D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts reopened last year following a multi-million dollar renovation. The modernization project, designed by a Joint Venture Partnership between cox graae + spack architects and Lance Bailey & Associates, has transformed the aging historic National Landmark into a top-tier student facility.

The stunning design has struck a balance between restoring and respecting the original historic building while creating major new academic and performance spaces.  The interior environment centres on a giant oval-shaped structure within the four-story atrium – the Duke Ellington Theatre ‘egg’.  Inside the egg is a full-sized 800 seat theatre complete with orchestra pit, lighting catwalks and high-performing acoustics.  

Advanced BIM modelling and 3D laser scanning techniques were employed for the complex design of the theatre.  Once constructed, the outer shell was expertly hand-finished in Armourcoat polished plaster by local installers ACI/Senza Fine.  The design team took inspiration from piano keys for the interior, featuring crisp white wall finishes with black accents, paying homage to the iconic musician, composer and D.C. native Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington.  In total over 25,000ft2 of finishes were applied to the theatre, cafeteria walls and columns over three levels.

Chris Ambridge, Associate Principal at cg+s architects, commented “The choice to use Armourcoat came at the end of an extended process of exploring many options. The decision was important since the theatre is the centre piece at the heart of the school. We found a precedent in London of a similarly complex application and quickly became comfortable that Armourcoat was the right product for our project in terms of cost/ schedule and aesthetics. The project team and Client have been delighted with the end result; the finish is sophisticated and durable. We hope to have opportunities to use Armourcoat again in the future.”

Photography: © Chris Ambridge

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