Credit: Joseph Romeo; Sculpture: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Planet Word

BBB revitalized D.C.’s historic Franklin School as a home for Planet Word, the world’s first voice-activated museum of language. 

Planet Word brings language to life through interactive galleries, which empower visitors to use their own voices to activate exhibits. BBB developed and designed the preservation and rehabilitation of the National Historic Landmark, a Renaissance Revival building designed by Adolf Cluss. Opened in 1869 as the flagship of a forward-thinking public education network, the former school was chosen to house Planet Word for its rich history of education and innovation.

The Great Hall, a preeminent space in the building, was rehabilitated and now serves as both an event space and the Spoken World gallery, featuring a floating kinetic sculpture. The Mansard Room, directly above the Great Hall, is a new event space created from an unused attic, which connects to a new roof terrace. These spaces showcase original craftsmanship, including frescoes with replicated trompe l'oeil details. To retain the integrity and beauty of the building’s grand staircases, the team restored their historic detailing and achieved performance-based compliance with building codes. On the exterior facades, similar care was taken in preserving historic details, including decorative windows and brick, stone, and cast-iron elements. In addition to comprehensive preservation and design solutions throughout Planet Word, BBB’s work included integration of energy-efficient building systems, the repositioning of the entrance to create an inviting and accessible gateway, interior design and furniture selection, and environmental graphics.

The team led the project’s historic and regulatory reviews and consulted with numerous regulatory and advisory groups. BBB collaborated with Local Projects, the lead experience designer.



Franklin School Development, LLC


Washington, DC


53,244 SF



Construction Cost



LEED Silver


Partner, Director of the DC Office
Associate, Architectural Designer
Senior Associate
Senior Associate, Architect
Associate, Architect
Senior Associate, Architect
Associate, Architectural Designer