Brown School historic expansion begins

Innovative new building will transform Washington University’s school of social work; ensure leadership in social development, public health extends into next era

A rendering of the new building, which will be located just east of — and connected to — Brown and Goldfarb halls on the southeast quadrant of the Danforth Campus. This is a view near the intersection of Hoyt and Brookings drives. (Credit: Architect’s rendering)

In 1934, Washington University in St. Louis constructed Brown Hall on its campus — the world’s first “bricks-and-mortar” building of a school of social work.

Nearly 80 years later, the Brown School, an international leader in educating students in social work and public health, will take the next, necessary steps to ensure it remains a catalyst for change long into the 21st century when site prep work begins on a two-year, $60 million expansion of its facilities.

At the centerpiece of the “transformational” Brown School expansion is an innovative new building — east of Brown and Goldfarb halls of approximately 105,000 square feet — for which site excavation begins this week.

“The building will have a tremendous impact on the Brown School’s teaching and research, and in turn will help its faculty, students and staff provide new innovations that will enhance the unique culture of this community,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “The Brown School has a strong reputation for its work in communities close to home and worldwide, and this expansion will ensure that work continues.”

“The new facility is going to be an important symbol of our forward momentum and leadership in the fields of social work and public health over the next era,” said Edward F. Lawlor, PhD, dean of the Brown School and the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor.

“It’s going to be transformational for the Brown School,” Lawlor said. “This building will help us connect communities by bringing our community together in one place, and will provide us with the classrooms, research space, event and gathering space and student spaces to be the best in our field.”

About the building

When completed in the summer of 2015, the new building will double the Brown School’s footprint on the Danforth Campus and bring together faculty, staff and research centers — as well as the university’s Institute for Public Health — that are now spread across four locations, providing energy and synergy for the Brown School’s research, students, alumni and the community.

Strategic remodeling will connect Brown and Goldfarb halls to the new facility. An innovative architectural concept called “The Street” will serve as a seamless connection of the Brown School’s research centers, administrative offices, academic offices and service departments.

The focal point of the new building — reflecting the Brown School’s values of inclusiveness, integration and wellness — will be the Forum, an atrium-like public space that will be used for large school and university events and those hosted by the Brown’s School’s Policy Forum and community partners.

When not in use, the Forum will be enjoyed by students, faculty and staff. The building also will provide additional classrooms, group and individual study space for students and a café.

Other unique design elements include the integration of native plant material and a rain garden into the landscape along Forsyth Boulevard. Not only will this add beauty and biodiversity, but also it will be functional, reducing the need for irrigation while capturing and absorbing rainwater runoff and allowing it to absorb into the ground. A plaza located between the three buildings will provide outdoor space for casual lounging, impromptu meetings and organized events.

Design and sustainability

Careful attention is being given to design features of the interior and exterior to optimize access and use by students, faculty, staff and guests who have physical or other disabilities.

Sustainability is at the core of the expansion project. The design and engineering of the new building is targeted for LEED Gold certification, exceeding the university’s current sustainability standards.

The Living Building Challenge — one of the most advanced measurements of sustainability — has served as a guide for the project as distinctions in the category of Equity and Beauty are being built into the design. These achievements will express, in a measurable way, the school’s commitment to evidence-based sustainability and wellness.

“The rigor and inclusiveness of the planning process and resulting achievements are unmatched among academic buildings at Washington University,” Lawlor said. “The building will be truly unique on the campus in the amount of glass bringing the outside in, and in the sustainability efforts. It will be a dramatic statement for the Brown School.”

The conceptual and design plans are the product of a highly inclusive, unique collaborative effort over a period of five years, involving Brown School faculty, staff and students; its National Council; community partners; alumni; and WUSTL administrative leaders.

Architect of record is Moore Ruble Yudell of Santa Monica, Calif. Design partners include local associate firm Mackey Mitchell Architects; mechanical engineering, sustainability planning and lighting design by Buro Happold; landscape architecture by Andropogon; audiovisual design by Sextant; and construction management by Alberici.

For more details and renderings of the building, see

Upcoming changes

The immediate effect of the construction site will be the closing of Chaplin Drive directly east of Brown and Goldfarb halls. Parking will be removed along Chaplin Drive; in the small lot east of Goldfarb; and some spaces to the south of Goldfarb will be removed.

Preparation of the building site also will require the removal of a Scotch Elm tree along with two Swamp Oaks located east of Goldfarb and Brown halls. Kent Theiling Jr., grounds manager/horticulturalist for the Danforth Campus, has assembled a team that will remove the trees with the highest emphasis on preservation in order to reuse the wood for functional and creative projects throughout the Brown School. Theiling’s team hopes to make remaining wood available to craftspeople.

“While it takes many years to replace mature trees, extensive planning for landscaping and tree planting has already taken place,” Theiling says. “We’ve been working to propagate the existing trees, with acorns and grafts being grown now into saplings for planting on campus.”

The Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies housed at Brown held a ceremony this spring to honor the trees before their removal.

Regular updates on activities relating to the project, including impacts of construction on the university community and neighbors, will be ongoing and available. Visit for updates.