Silman, A TYLin Company, provided structural engineering design services to convert a historic school into Planet Word in Washington, DC.
The historic Franklin School was designed by Adolf Cluss and originally opened in 1869. It was one of the earliest co-ed high schools. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996. The Renaissance Revival structure is sited across from Franklin Square and named after Benjamin Franklin. It has been reborn as Planet Word, a language arts museum and education space.
A careful renovation of the five-story space introduced a restaurant, offices, a workshop and conference room, retail space, auditoriums and galleries, a language laboratory, and rotating exhibits. Sensitive additions to the heavily protected building include a fourth-floor event space connected to a new roof terrace.
The Great Hall is the largest historical space within the building. The ceiling was carefully modified to support the installation of a 15-foot diameter LED planet display. The modifications also achieved the necessary loading capacity for the new event space located directly above in a formerly unused attic.
- The structural scope included strengthening the existing floor structure for higher live loads and new floor structures and elevators.
- Silman engineers repaired and preserved the historic roof wood trusses to allow the creation of seven new galleries.
- Planet Word is recognized as the world’s first voice-activated museum of language.
- The architect was Beyer Blinder Belle.
Images credit: Joseph Romeo Photography