Location
Washington, DC

Client
Blackboard, Inc.

Service Type

Project Type

Size
112,000 sf

Completion
2008

Awards
2010 International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Mid-Atlantic Chapter Awards Pinnacle Award, Commercial, Over 100,000 SF

2010 International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Mid-Atlantic Chapter Awards Gold Award, Commercial, Over 100,000 SF

2010 AIA Potomac Valley Chapter Citation, Built Interiors Category

2010 Floor Focus Magazine Vision Award, Large New Construction

2009 Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Awards Merit Awards, Large Office

2009 Ultron Doc Award Project Design Category

2009 Mid-Atlantic Construction Best of 2009 Awards Award of Merit, Interior Design

2009 Associated Builders and Contractors, Metropolitan Washington & Virginia Chapters Excellence in Construction Award

Blackboard is a thriving Washington DC based corporation that succeeds by connecting students, faculty, researchers and academic communities together through technology. When it came time to relocate their new headquarters, Blackboard requested a space that fosters collaboration and communication and reflects their brand identity and entrepreneurial spirit.

Taking a cue from educators, Blackboard’s core users, the team designed a space that mimics the layout of a college campus. Two separate wings of the building are connected with freestanding spaces such as pantries, meeting pods, copy areas and a mail room forming a “Commons” area. Open spaces of varying scale between these freestanding elements make it easy for Blackboard’s employees to choose their own circulation paths through the office, the way students move across a college campus to get from point A to B quickly.

A glowing central stair made of solid surface material links the two wings of the building and connects three floors. This stair is the epicenter of activity and becomes a place for incidental contact among employees. There are many types of meeting spaces that allow for open forums, impromptu discussions and more private closed door talks. The meeting spaces as well as the office spaces are designed to provide more privacy as one travels further from the “Commons.” Corridors on each floor, housing the phone closets and wellness rooms, are finished in a slick white Venetian plaster inspired by the finish of a piece of chalk. Narrowing as they approach conference rooms, these corridors provide strong direction, guiding employees towards meeting destinations. Waterfall-like partitions, unique to the sixth floor, shift back and forth along a wide corridor, protecting the entrances to the working studios while at the same time creating space for teaming discussions complete with white board panels.

White, undulating forms travel through the space like chalk strokes, bringing the Blackboard brand alive.  Sinuous space is created where walls, ceilings and floors form contiguous volumes allowing the eye to travel uninterrupted.  These forms take on different functions throughout the space, comprising the reception desk, and serving as ledges for marketing displays and functional benches in the office corridors.

Blackboard’s brand touches the space in many ways, encouraging employee collaboration and creativity.  Chalkboard sidelights at every office door provide employees with a means to communicate and express themselves within an office-intensive floor plan.  The writing rule graphic taken from the Blackboard logo travels across the office sidelights and the perimeter of each conference room.  Felt erasers, mounted on the wall-like brick-work, provide space for tacking up materials during team discussions.

The designers used environmentally responsible materials throughout the design, including zero-VOC paints/sealants, energy-efficient lighting, non-toxic materials, recycled synthetic gypsum board/ceiling
tile, formaldehyde-free millwork and recycled construction waste.

Blackboard asked for an environment that evokes the collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit of the company and the design delivers across the board.