Areas of Study

“DeafSpace” Architectural Concept Demystified

WASHINGTON, D.C. ¬¬¬- April 26, 2011 – Gallaudet University unveiled specifics on its newest campus development at a groundbreaking ceremony today featuring remarks by Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz, District of Columbia Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chair Bill Shelton, and Washington Post columnist Roger Lewis, among other local area notable guests.

Chartered in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln, Gallaudet University is the world’s only accredited liberal arts university for deaf and hard of hearing students that offers a bilingual learning environment in American Sign Language and English.

The groundbreaking took place at the future site of the university’s “Living and Learning” residence hall, also known as LLRH6. The new residence hall is the second construction project on campus that incorporates an emerging architectural concept known as “DeafSpace,” in which building design features are used to maximize deaf people’s visual access in educational, work, and living environments.

“For 147 years, Gallaudet University has served as an innovator for education, communication and language for people who are deaf or hard of hearing…and a way of life for many deaf people around the world,” said Hurwitz. “The considerations of deaf people in terms of visual and communications accessibility are unique…[and] extend beyond the classroom to our living and working environments.”

DeafSpace emphasizes sensory awareness, mobility and proximity, acoustics, and light and color treatments. The first structure built on the Gallaudet campus using the DeafSpace concept is the Sorenson Language and Communication Center which opened in 2008.

“LLRH6 will serve to expand the DeafSpace approach to a unique mix of residential, academic, and social spaces to foster lively interaction within a visually attuned environment,” said Hansel Bauman, Gallaudet University director of design and planning. “The academic spaces are open to the entire student population and will include a ‘CoLab,’ a flexible studio space where students can work collaboratively on innovative projects; and the ‘Terrace Lounge,’ the main social space with a terraced floor configured to the gentle slope of the site.” Students can either gather in multiple small study groups on the terraced spaces or gather in a large group to watch a movie with clear sightlines to all parts of the space, noted Bauman.

The LLRH6 project team was assembled with the assistance of a selection committee that included Gallaudet students, faculty, and staff as well as representatives from the surrounding Washington, D.C., community. To further promote community involvement, Gallaudet has recently hosted several job fairs to identify qualified District of Columbia residents, with preference given to candidates of Ward 5 and the Trinidad community, for construction jobs at the project.

In addition, sustainable design strategies will be employed to obtain LEED Silver Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, including the introduction for the first time ever to campus a geothermal heating and cooling system, as well as water-saving and high-efficiency fixtures, recycled and regional content and materials, and the use of mechanical (HVAC), electric, and plumping systems installed with a focus on efficiency and controllability.

“Our hope is that as we continue to introduce new building and construction initiatives, such as the university’s 2012-2022 master plan and beyond, we can further develop opportunities for greater sustainability, as well as create jobs and career development opportunities for our students as well as community residents,” said Hurwitz.

The $16 million new residence hall will house 175 students and total 60,000 square feet across five stories. Commons areas of the structure will be open to the entire campus community. The project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2012.

The LLRH6 project team consists of:

  • Builder: Sigal Construction
  • MEP Engineer: Setty Associates
  • Design Architect: LTL Architects
  • Architect of Record: Quinn Evans Architects
  • Civil Engineer: Delon Hampton Associates
  • Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
  • Program Manager: Brailsford Dunlavey

For more information about the LLRH6 project, visit

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