Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Wayne Stocks / Thornton Tomasetti.

Walter E. Washington Convention Center



Thornton Tomasetti designed the structure for a 2.3-million-square-foot convention facility that covers six city blocks. The structure rests on large spread-footings, while the entire site is encapsulated by a continuous 45-foot-deep slurry wall that is braced independently from the building. The seven-story building superstructure consists of 45,000 tons of high strength steel with composite concrete on metal deck slabs. Typical bays are 90 x 90 feet. The trusses supporting the 17-acre roof are arched, with clear spans of up to 180 feet.

The new convention center bridges over L and M Streets and extends beneath 9th Street. The design also includes a two-level Vierendeel truss pedestrian bridge over L Street. The building façade has an independent additional back-up framing system in order to accommodate floor to floor heights of up to 40 feet. The elevated exhibit floor is designed to support loads in excess of 350 psf. The below-grade loading dock can accommodate 40 semi-trailers.

The project site spans both commercial and residential neighborhoods, requiring different exterior scales to accommodate each area. To accomplish the varying sizes, the building was designed to look like three separate structures, with the 475,000-square-foot main exhibit hall, which runs the full length of the site, located below grade. The design also allowed streets to continue through the convention center, preserving existing traffic patterns.

The project required coordination with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the D.C. Historic Preservation Division, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the National Capitol Planning Commission.

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