Change Agent

A modern addition gives American University's McKinley Building a new lease on life

When American University’s stately, neoclassical McKinley Building began life in 1907, it occupied a prominent spot on the Northwest DC campus. However, later expansion marginalized its original grand rotunda entrance. In 2014, Bowie Gridley Architects was tapped to overhaul the L-shaped, three-story marble structure, adding on a dynamic, modern volume. The goal: to create a state-of-the-art home for AU’s School of Communication, along with a new entrance opening onto the main quad.

“We wanted to respect the beautiful building and its history while integrating modern expression,” says architect William Gridley, who oversaw the project. “The contemporary façade juxtaposed with the neoclassical design symbolizes the changing face of media today.”

The project gutted and reorganized the interiors to accommodate more classrooms and faculty space. Nestled into the building’s L, the addition is clad in glass and pre-finished, patinated-metal panels that match the rotunda’s copper roof; discarded marble was reclaimed for a stair tower. A 148-seat theater, atrium and converged newsroom are encompassed in the airy, modern space.

The LEED Gold-certified McKinley Building won a 2018 Northern Virginia AIA Award of Excellence in Institutional Architecture.

Renovation & Addition Architecture: William Gridley, FAIA; Richard Salopek, AIA; and Robert Sherrill, AIA, Bowie Gridley Architects, Washington, DC. Contractor: GCS | Sigal, Washington, DC. Photography: Prakash Patel.