The Washington Post

Merit Award 2017

For more than 140 years, The Washington Post has stood as one of the most respected and trustworthy names in journalism—committed to responsible reporting and an inexhaustible search for the truth. The company is evolving, using new forms of media to expand its tireless mission in both delivery and dialogue. This is the essence that Gensler sought to capture in the design of the new headquarters for the venerable institution of journalism, an 180-degree departure from their past that converges the interdisciplinary teams who create print, digital, video and live events around stories that matter.

The Gensler design team’s challenge was to infuse the rich heritage of the Washington Post throughout their new space and to celebrate the stories and personalities that helped make the organization what it is. Gensler sought to incorporate as many original artifacts as possible in the new space, though an additional challenge was to ensure that the outcome did not merely memorialize past glories in the fashion of a museum, but rather to create a space that looked toward the future and inspired the next generation of journalists. 

The Gensler team embarked on a strategy to weave elements from the Post’s past throughout the space, integrating them in modern, unexpected ways with a subtlety that complemented the progressive architectural design. They focused on developing the communication strategy and helped author what stories were told throughout the structure, working tirelessly to maintain the original aged appearance where possible and creating accurate replicas that were indistinguishable from the originals where needed. 

The artifacts used are a nod to the bedrock of the Washington Post.  Exploring the historical archives, the design team uncovered a treasure trove of hot metal type that had been used to handset the daily paper for decades. Original type, along with meticulously crafted replicas, hand-distressed to match the well-worn originals, spell out the seven principles of journalism declared by the Post’s founder, Eugene Myers.

Through a series of high-impact features, the design team integrated elements from The Post's past in modern, unexpected ways to express The Post’s rich history of journalistic excellence, celebrate its major moments and personalities, and inspire storytellers and listeners today and tomorrow.

Upon entering, visitors and staff are greeted by the refreshed and repurposed exterior signage from the previous building, a well-known and long-standing D.C. landmark. A tone-on-tone application combined with the raw finish of the weathered letters creates an honest blend of old and new. Floor identifications are carved into each white lacquer elevator bank to reveal the painted black drywall beneath, symbolizing the uncovering of the truth and creating a black and white motif that conveys the shift of information display from traditional printed newspapers to modern digital devices

At the heart of The Washington Post are the stories and events they cover, a dynamic timeline of the last century’s milestones. Iconic 1As (front pages in layman’s terms) from The Post archives fill a large feature wall near a main interconnecting staircase, subtly executed in a contrasting glossy/matte print. Pulitzer Prize winners are celebrated on the opposite wall, with plenty of space to add future recipients. Hundreds of Post headlines collaged together create a privacy film on conference room walls.

The Post’s new home is an incubator of innovation and connector of people and ideas that celebrates what it has achieved in the past, while still focusing the majority of its energy on what it is yet to come. The outcome reflects the fact that “the new space honors the legacy of The Post in a way the old building never even tried to,” says Deputy Managing Editor, Tracy Grant.  As the Post continues to redefine the role of a media and technology company, the brand expression serves as a constant reminder of the standard that has been set throughout the history of the organization, and a source of inspiration for the next generation of journalists. 

Jury Comments: 

"If I were working at the Washington Post, I’d like to be surrounded by beautiful, subtle, poignant and playful reminders that I’m contributing to sharing, explaining and understanding the ‘truth.’ The WP’s space does exactly that for the employee and visitor. The space exudes an elegance and sex appeal, especially that custom elevator numeral!"

"Modern and unexpected media, artifact and graphics treatments convey DC’s oldest extant newspaper's legacy in their transformed headquarters.  Here at the new Post, this experiential solution thrives in a transparent and collaborative workplace. The newspaper’s slogan— Democracy Dies in Darkness— might be replaced with Design Lives in Lightness."

Client: 

The Washington Post

Project Area: 

238,034 sq ft

Open Date: 

January 2016

Photo Credits: 

Garrett Rowland

Design Team: 

Steven Joswick (design director), Hannah Olin (designer)

Consultants: 

Rand Construction Corporation (general contractor)

Fabricators: 

PhotoWorksGroup (primary fabrication) Gelberg Signs (secondary fabricator) 

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