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Dunbar Senior High School in Shaw has always been one of the best examples of the worst in D.C. public school architecture.
Built in 1977, it has that geometric, jailhouse-type look, much like Bruce Monroe Elementary on Georgia Ave., which was supposed to be demolished this summer. This morning, the D.C. Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (OPEFM) announced a meeting for the first phase of a competition for Dunbar’s new design.
Earlier this year, OPEFM finished off a similar competition for Wilson Senior High School. It drew 21 proposals for the first round; that group was narrowed down to a “short list” of six firms. Each firm was given $25,000 to prepare preliminary design concepts. Ultimately, Cox Graae + Spack Architects (GCS) of Washington won.
“That’s exactly the plan [again],” says Tony Robinson, spokesperson for OPEFM.
Before it was known for its hideousness, Dunbar—its former, earlier building—was known for its grandeur. (It looks a lot like Eastern Senior High School on Capitol Hill, according to Robinson.) Dunbar is also known for being the first “municipally financed” high school in the U.S. constructed for African-American students. Hopefully, the new design will stir up some of the old nostalgia and pride, says Robinson.
“We heard from so many alumni about what the building used to mean to the students,” he says. “We don’t we want to recreate the building brick by brick,” but firms should strive for the same sensation.
An earlier version of this story stated that Bruce Monroe had been demolished. The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development announced in August that it was beginning demolition on the school then. But at least part of the building—the part I glimpsed this weekend—is still standing today.