Silver Spring, MD


17,000 SF

A. Mario Loiederman Middle School is a magnet school for creative and performing arts located in a 1960’s era building not designed specifically for this mission.  This project adds 22,000 sf of performance spaces consisting of a 425-seat theater, dressing rooms, set construction space, concessions, orchestra, instrumental music, choral and dance classrooms.

Stakeholders goals for a successful project included: colorful, flexible, unique, not rigid, organic lines, maximize daylight, performance identity, environmentally friendly, enhance well-being, informative, durable.

With these goals, the design intention is to inspire wonder and enhance health and learning for students; and to energize the experience for the spectator and community.  Biophilic devices were employed to reduce stress, improve learning, enhance mood and create spaces that make us happier.

Diffuse and dynamic daylighting

Daylight and views to nature are complemented with colored glass so learners can learn to see with an artist’s eye.  Windows provide reflections of color that move across floors and walls- an artful delight for students between classes.  We discovered the solar shading on the building mass produces afternoon projections of nature shadows on the western exterior walls.  The large windowless theater envelope was made white to maximize the effect of these stress-reducing fractal patterns for parents picking up students after school.   The perforated vertical sun-shades at the lobby wall create a dappled light pattern calming students.

Biomorphic forms

The lobby’s curved glass wall, concentric arcs in the wood ceiling and swoops of color-changing LED’s are biomorphic forms that typically viewers find to be beautiful.  The curves and arcs are also applied within the concrete entrance plaza.


The lobby composition is intended to inspire awe in students.  The tall volume; grand scale of sculptural lighting fixtures and columns; references to music with the piano curve in the canopy and piano keys pattern in the ceramic tile; color-changing theatrical lighting and Mondrian-like colored glass box at the vestibule- all compose a space that we hope illuminates the high value placed on the arts.  And we hope the composition inspires awe in young artists.  Awe is the beginning of wisdom”, (Abraham Joshua Heschel) the perfect device for the entry of learning space.

Economy & Flexibility

The 425-seat theater a transformational multipurpose space maximizing hours of use.  During school hours the performance space deploys operable partitions and retracts telescoping seats to create dance studios and a theater classroom.   Mobile monitors, mirrors and ballet barres are provided during class time and stored when the space becomes a theater.

Exterior image

How do you add on to an existing building painted completely white?  We placed the performance element of this arts school at the front, facing the community, creating a new image for the school; a form that is informed by the art within.  The form is simple solid boxes, minimizing daylight in theater spaces, but where windows are provided for learning space they are creative mosaics of colored and clear glass.  The lobby is a glass void- where the “curtain” is opened to reveal the opening night theater of the pre-event space.