Duke Ellington School of the Arts wins PIA for Best Lighting Retrofit of 2019

PIA Award Winner: Best Retrofit with SSL, 2019

Based in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C., the Duke Ellington School of the Arts is a nationally recognized high school that specializes in arts education. Founded in 1974 by Peggy Cooper Cafritz and Mike Malone, the school occupies a building originally built in 1898 as Western High School.

The District of Columbia Public Schools recently embarked on a multi-million dollar renovation project to modernize the facility and expand from 171,000 to 271,000 sq. ft. The project included the renovation and addition of classrooms, dance and art studios, common areas, a media center and a 300-seat performance hall. While the primary goal of construction was to add new spaces and modernize the entire building the architect, Cox Graae + Spack, aspired to also retain the historic nature of the unique facility. MCLA, the architectural lighting design firm based in Georgetown, was the lead on selecting the lighting to be used on the project in collaboration with One Source Associates.

This project was unique and unlike traditional school projects. To support the architects’ vision, the lighting design deviates from the standard educational template to address the needs of these students. The lighting design called for high-quality products that would support the intended experience of the space, meet precise light levels in certain areas, perform as advertised, and contribute to building code compliance.

Judges' Comments: “The lighting in the school is as elegant as I imagine the music being performed. This retrofit really washes away any arguments not to upgrade to LED.”

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Architectural SSL staff

In January 2024, Architectural SSL evolved to LightSPEC. While the name changed, the editorial focus -- writing and developing audience-first content about architectural lighting in the built environment for architects, interior designers, lighting designers and manufacturers, and specifiers of commercial and residential lighting and controls -- remains the same.