The Ballston Center. © Connie Zhou

Learning Curve

When Marymount University decided to rebuild its aging Ballston Center, located at the corner of a busy Arlington intersection, it embraced an unusual paradigm. In addition to housing the business school and graduate programs, the new center would also lease space to local businesses, creating a bridge between academic and private-sector entities that would allow students to learn in a business environment.

Marymount and the Shooshan Company, a local developer, tapped Gensler to design the building. Now finished, the nine-story Ballston Center is clad in a layered façade of glass, metal and terracotta tile. A view of the east façade (pictured above) reveals a floating stair with landings opening onto student lounge areas. Structural slabs, pipes and ductwork are accented in different colors on each floor, creating a vibrant spectrum. The stairs overlook a lively plaza shared with The Rixey, a new building offering apartments, graduate-student housing and retail outlets.

The LEED Gold-certified Ballston Center measures 165,000 square feet and features an auditorium, research labs, conference rooms, an art gallery and a chapel—among other amenities. Businesses occupy the top three floors. The project earned Gensler a 2018 AIA Northern Virginia Award of Merit for Institutional Architecture.

Exterior Architecture: Duncan Lyons, RIBA, LEED AP BD+C; Interior Design: Jill Goebel, IIDA, LEED AP, Gensler, Washington, DC. Exterior Contractor: Clark Construction Group, Bethesda, Maryland. Interior Contractor: HITT Contracting Inc., Falls Church, Virginia.