R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center is the adaptive reuse of the St. Elizabeths East Chapel to create an interim innovation hub and community gathering space. The Chapel is located on the St. Elizabeths East Campus at the center of the District of Columbia’s Congress Heights neighborhood in Ward 8. Selected by the community, R.I.S.E. is an acronym for Relate (Rel8), Innovate (Innov8), Stimulate (Stimul8), and Elevate (Elev8).
St. Elizabeths East Campus, a national historic landmark owned by the District of Columbia, is a 180-acre site that was previously one of the largest mental health communities in the United States. A master plan vision for the campus, led by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, proposes to revitalize and transform the site to provide accessible education and act as a business incubator for the community, focused on innovation driven technologies. As a part of the earliest phase of implementation, the adaption of the Chapel building into an interim innovation hub serves as a cornerstone for the campus master plan. Cunningham | Quill was initially commissioned by the District of Columbia Department of General Services to provide preliminary assessment, planning, and design services for the proposed renovation. Subsequently, Cunningham | Quill was selected with GCS Inc. as part of a design-build team to provide complete architectural and construction services.
The Chapel is a symbolic landmark for the local community because of its visual prominence from Martin Luther King Jr Avenue. With sensitivity to this, the renovation preserves the historic essence of the building, while dramatically altering its function. A new west entry, exterior walkways, and public space transform the Chapel’s relationship to the community from a visual landmark isolated behind the campus perimeter fence, to a community space directly accessible from Martin Luther King Jr Avenue. A new circulation spine bisects the ground floor, from east to west, and divides the original chapel into two large, flexible-use spaces. A ‘Digital Inclusion Center,’ a state-of-the-art computer lab offering education opportunities, and additional classrooms and conference spaces are located on the lower level. From initial concept to grand opening in six months, the design incorporates simple geometric motifs and bold colors to leverage the full transformation of the Chapel into the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center.