A shuttered historic high school renovated to create an innovative 21st Century learning environment for a prestigious regional Governor’s school.

This 1930's style, double loaded corridor traditional high school was renovated to create a functional, flexible environment for the 21st century high school with innovative programs. Diverse learning spaces were created, rich with technology, within a flexible school organization that allows interdisciplinary and traditional school models. Dispersed administration and guidance brought administrative services closer to the students.


  • Renovation of 142,000 SF
  • Addition of 8,000 SF
  • Abandoned building for 10 years prior to renovation
  • National Registry of Historic Places
  • Major site and infrastructure improvements


  • VSBA Excellence in Design award, 2001
  • AIA Richmond Merit Award, 2002
  • Virginia Department of Education Outstanding Renovated School Building, 2002
  • VEFP Excellence in Design Award, 2002
  • CEFPI Lighthouse Award, 2002
  • School Construction News, Design Share Merit Award, 2002

Circulation was simplified for safety and ease of traffic flow. Various types and sizes of gathering spaces provide many areas for spontaneous instruction or formal presentations. The Student Commons, Cafeteria Commons, Black-box Theatre, Auditorium, and Forum all provide for formal and informal group interaction. Specialty labs for science, technology, language, 2D and 3D art, broadcast, and music provide areas appropriately equipped for specialized instruction. The Senior Commons provides a place for seniors to collaborate, socialize, and build identity as a group. Technology is everywhere, with full capabilities for a student laptop environment.

The Governor’s School

The Governor’s School for Government & International Studies (GSGIS) is a comprehensive high school grades 9-12 and a dedicated regional Governor’s School for talented students with defined interests. Since its founding in 1991, it has developed high expectations and a history of extensive involvement in the community and working partnerships.  
This mission is based on beliefs that the nations of the world are interdependent and thus have created an international community in which the U.S. and central Virginia play an integral role. Effective citizenship requires new skills, knowledge and understanding. The increasingly global world will look to gifted students to become leaders and creative contributors to developments in the 21st century.

A challenging interdisciplinary academic program provides students opportunities to develop an understanding and appreciation of the people’s, languages and cultures, government, and socio-economic structures of the international community. Skills in communication, problem-solving and leadership are stressed. 
This program requires the collaboration and involvement of educational, business, governmental and other community organizations.


At the new Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, the word community has multiple meanings: local and regional partnerships; providing a resource; sharing resources; ensuring safety and security; accentuating the historic importance of the site; and being instrumental to community revitalization. Of primary importance, the GSGIS at Maggie Walker is a community of learners who have a stimulating place to work, learn and teach.  

The renovated school is designed to be inviting, accessible, and promotes a sense of community and belonging. It should aid in creating viable and programmatic partnerships with community groups and broaden the perception of the Governor’s School as a community resource. A small museum dedicated to Maggie Walker is incorporated into the foundation offices within the building. Space is provided that accommodates multiple groups at various hours on all days of the week, while respecting the core instructional program. Community spaces for use by the Carver and Jackson Ward neighborhoods and for other regional uses are incorporated.

Professional Development

Professional development is vital to the GSGIS learning organization. School professionals must be able to collaborate on a regular basis with educators both within the school and in the community. The new facility makes the tools and resources for the collaboration readily available. Collaboration is assisted through digital technology and spaces provided for professional training and conferences. Teachers have dedicated functional workspaces with tools to meet their professional needs. These spaces are integrated within the classroom structure throughout the building. Teachers were involved in the design process, participating in visits to model sites and providing input for classroom layout and design in their area of expertise.