BBB revitalized the historic Franklin School as the home to D.C.'s inaugural language-arts museum, Planet Word, which brings language to life through revolutionary technology, interactive exhibits, and voice activation.
Planet Word features three floors of interactive galleries and exhibits to engage visitors of all ages in experiencing words and language from a wide range of perspectives. BBB oversaw the preservation and rehabilitation of the Renaissance Revival building designed by Adolf Cluss, which is recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Opened in 1869 as the cornerstone of a comprehensive system of segregated education for the city of Washington, the school was chosen to house Planet Word for its rich history in public education and historic connection to the museum's mission. It was here that Alexander Graham Bell made the first wireless transmission of the human voice — words — using a Photophone, a precursor to fiber-optic technology, in 1880.
BBB's role included replicating the building's original frescoes, restoring some of its original classrooms, and restoring and renovating two grand staircases with their ornate cast-iron and wood railings. A fourth floor was created under the original soaring mansard roof, to house a new event space, the Mansard Room, and connects to a new roof terrace on the historic roof overlooking K Street and Franklin Square. Besides housing an exhibit on the diversity of the world's 6000 languages, the building's central Great Hall has been rehabilitated to serve as a grand space for concerts, gatherings, and performances. Planet Word also has nine other immersive galleries; two classrooms; an auditorium; a lobby welcome area; a restaurant; a gift shop, administrative spaces; an open patio; and a new accessible entrance.
BBB's work included comprehensive design services, coordination with exhibit designers, furniture design, interior design, historical exhibits, and graphics and wayfinding systems. BBB led reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act as well as consultation with the National Capitol Planning Commission, the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, and the D.C. State Historic Preservation Office. BBB also collaborated with Local Projects, which designed Planet Word's ten immersive learning galleries.