Washington, DC

American Chemical Society

Service Type

Project Type

110,000 sf


1996 AIA Washington DC Chapter Award of Merit
1995 NCBC Grand Award of Excellence

Project Details

The American Chemical Society faced a serious dilemma in the early 1990s: stay in its outdated and inefficient 1950s headquarters building and undergo a renovation, or move its workforce to the suburbs and build a new headquarters. Hickok Cole Architects (HCA) was hired to assist the Society in making this important decision. Ultimately the Society chose to remain in the District and renew its commitment to the city as their long-term home. In designing the 110,000 sf interior and exterior renovation and expansion, HCA responded to two primary responsibilities: the first to the Society to design an economical, efficient workplace that represented its vision for the future, and the second to the larger urban pattern of Washington, DC and the historic significance of this site, just five blocks from the White House.

HCA worked directly with the staff and the management of the Society to move them from a private office suite organization to a more flexible and generic floor plan where departments could expand and contract with ease. A unique feature of the interior design is the use of de-mountable partitions between fixed side walls of private offices. These partitions allow property managers to reconfigure private offices virtually overnight to accommodate changes in departments or workgroups.

In this AIA award-winning design, HCA created a building that both reflects the Society’s vision of an institution that was focused on the future and respects the historic context of the site and its neighbors. The 16th Street façade is organized in a very traditional manner. With its well-defined base, middle and top, the façade’s organizational pattern resembles numerous historic structures in the District.

The execution of the design, however, is anything but traditional. The stainless steel, aluminum and glass bay windows stand in sharp contrast to the more roughly textured granite of the base. It is the contrast between the old, traditional materials and the new, more contemporary materials that gives the façade its unique character and interest.

The design of the bay windows is also unique. The existing concrete floor slabs were unable to sustain the weight of the new bay windows. A creative decision was made to limit the area of structural reinforcement to the roof and then literally hang the bays from that new structure. This was both a practical solution and an elegant architectural expression, where each bay is hung from a central structural stainless steel member attached by gigantic stainless steel plates at the roof line.


1996 AIA Washington DC Chapter Award of Merit
1995 National Commercial Builders Council Grand Award for Excellence