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Hall McKnight wins major US contest for university for the deaf

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UK-based Hall McKnight has won the competition to regenerate Gallaudet University in Washington DC and redefine its ’urban edge’

The Northern Irish practice, which also has an office in London, saw off three American teams to win the project to create a new centrepiece building and  ‘vibrant’ public space around the school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Hall McKnight’s victorious scheme was described as ‘a new global model for bridging the hearing and deaf worlds’ and was praised by the jury as ’accomplished, eloquent and poetic’.

Founded in 1864, Gallaudet University is the only bilingual liberal arts university in the world where classes are taught in both American Sign Language and English.

The three-stage design competition, which was run by Malcolm Reading Consultants, attracted 51 submissions from around the world. Teams were asked to draw up plans to regenerate university-owned land along 6th Street, next to Gallaudet’s historic campus, and for ‘conceptual proposals for a landmark building at the epicentre of the campus’. 

Working with Aecom, Hall McKnight proposed a series of dynamic new spaces, both within the University and between the campus and the city, where staff and students could ’meet, commune and engage’. The landmark central building was conceived as a ’vessel to be filled with the experiences of its occupants’.

4 gallaudet university, malcolm reading consultant and hall mcknight


The project will be the first to apply Gallaudet’s innovative DeafSpace Design Guidelines in the public realm. This project is the first time these design principles will be incorporated into a public space off the Gallaudet campus.

The shortlisted teams

  • Hall McKnight Architects with Aecom, Nomad RDC, Whybrow Wayfinding, L’Observatoire International, Dr Adams-Costa and Patrick Cullina (UK)
  • Kennedy & Violich Architecture with Richard Burck Associates, Landscape Architecture Bureau, Bohler Engineering, Small Design Firm, Tillotson Design Associates, Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, Pentagram, Jensen Hughes Associates, Buro Happold, Tarek Atoui and Jacob Shamberg (USA)
  • Marvel Architects with Quennell Rothschild Partners, Arup, Local Projects, James Lima Planning + Development, Future/City, Jim Conti Light Design, Doyle Partners, Tom Fruin (USA)
  • MASS Design Group with Jeffrey Mansfield, DLR Group, TENxTEN, Small Stuff, Urban Ingenuity, Integral Group, Wendy Jacobs, Michael Gulliver, Chisato Minamimura and Sarah Pickthall (USA)

David Hamilton, director of projects at Malcolm Reading Consultants, said: ‘This was a truly unique and absorbing competition for MRC to help define and manage. It demonstrated how high levels of public engagement can be embedded seamlessly into a competitive process to achieve a successful outcome.’

Roberta J Cordano, president of Gallaudet University, said: ‘Gallaudet is a national and international treasure that is known as the heart of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. We sought out a partner that would cherish the integrity of our bilingual campus, which is our most cherished asset, and build bridges to share our unique attributes with the broader community.

’Hall McKnight aligned with our vision and we are grateful to be working with such a talented group of architects and designers.’

To see all the competition boards and videos of the achitects’ presentations click here.


Richard Dougherty, associate, Hall McKnight
’This has been a very special and inspirational journey for us, with an unprecedented level of engagement with stakeholders. The step-by-step approach to the process enabled our design concept to be tested and adjusted directly with users at every stage.’

Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University

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