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The Marketplace and Rathskeller

Gallaudet University | Washington, DC
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Project Details

Gallaudet University is a world-renowned institution serving deaf and hard-of-hearing people, with a student population of 1,400. Building on the success of several projects for both Gallaudet and the university’s food service provider, Bon Appetit Management Company, BKP was engaged to develop a phased plan for renovating two dining spaces in the I. King Jordan Student Activities Center. The Marketplace is a 1990s-era retail venue; the Rathskeller is pub-style late-night dining venue that also serves as a popular daytime hangout spot. Both spaces were dated, dark, and did not function well. Black ceilings, queueing congestion, and limited food options were challenges of the pre-renovation spaces.

BKP collaborated with Gallaudet and underwent education in the five principal concepts of Deaf Space: sensory reach, space and proximity, mobility and proximity, light and color, and acoustics. The resulting renovation design incorporates Universal Design principles, ADA requirements, and sustainability. From materiality and furnishings to lighting and sightlines, every detail is crafted for a multi-sensory experience. The design considers individuals with different bodies, abilities, and heights, in addition to accommodating those in wheelchairs and those with visual and hearing impairments.

The Marketplace retail venue was brightened and opened, extending its footprint into an adjacent atrium to improve flow. Wide spaces allow those who are signing to move through the space while remaining in visual contact. Clear sightlines and solid colors minimize distraction for easy ASL communication. A simple palette of blue and white minimizes visual noise and provides contrast for skin tones while signing. Floor tiles with contrasting colors and textures support wayfinding; heavily textured tiles around service points let visually impaired students using a cane tactilely understand the approach. New millwork and an updated layout ease congestion with an increased number of food options. New choices include brick-oven pizza, dedicated grab-and-go cases, global fusion, and a noodle bar, with features such as tilt pans to provide easy access for those in wheelchairs. Wall-mounted mirrors behind the built-in bench seating offer a visual connection with the surrounding area for those seated facing the wall.

Similar finishes, fixtures, and an updated layout were incorporated in the Rathskeller, where a small stage was built for student performances and meetings. Significant consideration was given to tiers of lighting to promote easy ASL communication, both from the audience and the stage perspectives. BKP partnered with Gallaudet’s IT group to outfit the stage with video capabilities that allow presentations to be simulcast in the adjacent atrium, allowing greater participation for larger events.

  • Client

    Gallaudet University

  • Cost

    $6 Million

  • Size

    3,600 SF

Photos © Jeffrey Totaro

“The newly renovated Marketplace café is bigger, brighter, and offers exciting new options to satisfy your mealtime cravings.”