A Museum Dedicated to Words: Ground Breaks on Planet Word Redevelopment at the Franklin School

by Nena Perry-Brown

A Museum Dedicated to Words: Ground Breaks on Planet Word Redevelopment at the Franklin School: Figure 1
The Franklin School and future home of the Planet Word Museum. Click to enlarge.

A year ago, plans were released for what would be a language arts museum at the historic Franklin School at 13th and K Streets NW (map). On Monday, representatives from the city and for the non-profit now dubbed "Planet Word" gathered to break ground on the development and preview some of the exhibits.

A Museum Dedicated to Words: Ground Breaks on Planet Word Redevelopment at the Franklin School: Figure 2
Existing third floor. Click to enlarge.

"We've invented something totally new: a museum without a collection, one built on nouns, verbs, adjectives, puns, questions, and quotations," Planet Word founder and philanthropist Ann Friedman stated during the ceremony. More specifically, all of the exhibits will be technology-driven and have interactive components that seek to "show and not tell", as Jake Barton, principal of exhibit design firm Local Projects described. 

Barton offered a few examples of what some exhibits may look like:

  • A 20-plus foot-high interactive wall with over 1,000 words that enables two-way communication.
  • A wall that allows visitors to "paint with words" using video projectors.
  • An LED ball at the apex of the building that represents the globe.
A Museum Dedicated to Words: Ground Breaks on Planet Word Redevelopment at the Franklin School: Figure 3
Rendering of the word wall. Click to enlarge.

The interior of the museum will include a restaurant and office/work space on the ground floor; a 2,000 square-foot auditorium, gift shop and gallery space on the first floor; five galleries and classroom space on the second floor; massive gallery and event space on the third floor; and a roof deck and additional event space on the mezzanine level above.

Environmental abatement work has already begun on the interior of the building and the privately-funded redevelopment is expected to cost at least $30 million. Friedman announced a $1 million donation from AT&T, a company originally founded by Alexander Graham Bell; Bell sent his first wireless voice transmission from the roof of the Franklin School in 1880.

A Museum Dedicated to Words: Ground Breaks on Planet Word Redevelopment at the Franklin School: Figure 4
Rendering of wall where you can "paint with words" Click to enlarge.

Beyer Blinder Belle is the project architect, with Gretchen Pfaehler (also of the Historic Preservation Review Board) leading the preservation efforts. The museum is expected to open in December 2019. 

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a-museum-dedicated-to-words-ground-breaks-on-the-franklin-school-redevelopm/14070

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