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District of Columbia Public Schools

Paul L. Dunbar High School

Project Description

Moody Nolan teamed with EEK Architects to win the design competition to replace the Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School. This new 260,000 sq. ft. facility replaces a fortress-like, 1977-vintage school that did not adequately serve its academic mission. Located just a few blocks from the US Capitol, the new Dunbar Senior High Schools provides a high performance learning environment designed to catalyze the renewal of one of our most historic schools.

Project Stats


Washington, DC

Year of Completion


Square Footage


Project Gallery

The Process

Founded in 1870 as the country’s first school for African Americans, Moody Nolan and EEK were challenged to create a facility that honors the past and present while looking toward the future. Inspiration for the new building leans heavily on the 1917 facility which was demolished in the 1970s. Like its historic predecessor, the new building reengages the community by establishing an inviting civic presence. In an appropriate twist of history, the building will be returning to the site of the original structure.

The concept of the new 21st Century Dunbar Senior High School is a modern environment with architecture that supports every aspect of the learning community. The school is organized into four academies of a lower scale with an open feeling that provide smaller scale modules where students and teachers can work in groups and create bonds that will underpin a successful education. All of the components of the educational program are assembled—classrooms, labs, educational technology, offices, gyms, lockers,—into a place where students, faculty and staff interact casually, exchange ideas and build positive relationships.