Gallaudet University


Sorenson Language and Communication Center

Washington, DC

87,000 GSF, 8,082 M2

Architecture, Engineering, Interior Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Lighting Design

Sustainable Programs
LEED for New Construction & Major Renovations (NC) (LEED-NC)-Certified

Presidential Citation for Universal Design, Honor Award -- Institutional, Illumination Award of Merit

View All Awards


Transparent, light and decidedly modern, this academic building for deaf and hearing-impaired students is as innovative as its client -- an internationally acclaimed university and a vibrant center of deaf culture, with a legacy dating to 1864.

SmithGroupJJR leveraged the project to collaborate with Gallaudet on achieving a new level of architectural accommodation. More than teaching and research facilities, the solution attempts to express the deaf way of being. Lighting is essential to the solution, reflecting the use of visual cues as a primary means of communication. Angled and shaped interior surfaces further accommodate the students and faculty as they move through the building. A rethinking of traditional lighting and audio systems led to special features that facilitate communication: diffused, comfortable lighting, powerful speaker systems to encourage reverberation, and open flexible classrooms with good visual access.

With its full-height glass facades and indoor-outdoor spaces, this learning center celebrates campus life, bringing in views and light. Its welcoming demeanor is matched by unique achievements in design for a population with special sensory needs.

Related Content

Walk Through Gallaudet’s New Building
Gallaudet University building designed especially for the deaf and hard of hearing.

SLCC Building Earns Design Award
The International Interior Design Association presents SmithGroupJJR with design award.

School Construction News Feature
Gallaudet Eyes the Future with Visual Design