Inside the DC Convention Center

We explore new spaces at DC's Walter E. Washington Convention Center.


The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., is the same size as it ever was, but has a lot more space. It only sounds like it violates the laws of physics. Actually, the new space is the result of a recently completed retrofit project that has transformed unused and underused areas around the building into 48,000 square feet of additional meeting space. During a tour this afternoon, Washington Convention and Sports Authority President and CEO Greg O’Dell, along with Vice President of Facility Operations John Collins and Vice President of Communications and Marketing Chinyere Hubbard, took me through the results — on what happened to be move-out day for the high-profile AIPAC Policy Conference 2010, one of the first events to take advantage of the convention center’s enhancements.

Thanks to the $14-million retrofit, Walter E. Washington now boasts two glassed-in meeting rooms overlooking the building’s Grand Lobby (that’s Greg and John standing inside one of them in the top photo), plus a series of “skyfold walls” that deploy quietly down from the ceiling to subdivide the wide-open East and West Registration areas into as many as six more rooms (see the photo directly above). But what I saw this afternoon was … not too much of that. The retrofit project has been integrated almost seamlessly into the existing space, meaning the Grand Lobby is still a cathedral of light and air, and the building’s elegant framing and its overall sense of flow are undisturbed.
The whole project was designed to meet a need that Greg told me an increasing number of events have — same amount of exhibit space but more educational programming, which means more breakout rooms. Not that you’d notice them at Walter E. Washington.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.