When Todd Grove of Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects talks about the renovations at Prince George’s Community College’s Lanham Hall, he calls it a “transformation project.”
Like many educational buildings of its era, Lanham Hall became outdated regarding usage and appearance. Quite drab and institutional, the facility served the college well for many years, but it was time to upgrade to the future.
“It was kind of a tired, lifeless, windowless building, and we transformed it into a 21st-century place,” Grove said. “One of the most gratifying and challenging projects is taking an existing building and knowing how to work with the structure instead of against it. That’s what we had to do here.”
Making a good first impression
Prince George’s Community College sits along a busy roadway, just east of the Washington, D.C., beltway. Many of its buildings can be seen by those passing by on Largo Road.
That helped Grove understand what the school was looking for in its renovation. This building had to attract attention. A good first impression was an absolute must.
Call it a “wow” factor.
“If people are looking and saying, ‘Look what Prince George’s Community College is doing,’ it sparks that curiosity about the interesting and exciting things they have going on,” Grove said. “The building can communicate that message.”
In this case, the college was hoping the construction at Lanham Hall would send a more progressive message to current and prospective students.
“It is exciting times for them, and we are grateful to be part of that,” Grove said.
A focus on the people
Prince George’s Community College needed to renovate Lanham Hall to create a comprehensive student learning center with a focus on strengthening the college’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education programs, as well as expand the Middle College High School.
The goal for Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects was to make the space at Lanham Hall much more inviting and engaging – a place for students and staff to find enjoyment in education. Portions of the walls were removed to allow natural light to enter the building. Murphy & Dittenhafer also made it high-performance to reduce energy usage and costs.
According to Grove, it is important to consider who will be using a facility when the project is in the design stage.
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“The people are always the first priority, and we need to be thinking about how they are going to use it,” he said. “Not only from a functional standpoint, but it has to add something to the worker, or in this case, the student’s experience.”
That approach to serving the people who will live, work and play in a space has resonated with the clients, too.
“For me, it’s key because, quite frankly, we have a responsibility to the college and the community,” said Henry Dickson, who serves as director of facilities, planning, design and construction at Prince George’s Community College.
Making the right choice
Dickson said that, in his experience, choosing an architect is not always about going with the lowest bidder. Selecting an experienced firm such as Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects can be essential to the success of a project.
“I felt they were the most qualified firm of the bunch and sent us the best result for the college to move forward,” Dickson said. “It was the best fit for the college.”
When it came time to get to work, Murphy & Dittenhafer approached the design from both the interior and exterior, helping to transform a 1970s building into something that grabs attention.
“It’s sort of easy to make it functional. It’s not always easy to be functional and enjoyable at the same time,” Grove said. “Being able to do that for Prince George’s Community College was gratifying. We know that what goes on in that space is benefitting the community’s future.”