This gateway campus building, set prominently along Nebraska Avenue, signals American University’s strong tradition of global service with a vibrant setting for teaching, research, and public dialogue.

The LEED-Gold building was designed by William McDonough + Partners in association with Quinn Evans Architects, with extensive input from university staff, faculty, and students. Transparency and equity were among the core values that informed the building’s inspired design.


  • New facility for largest foreign service program in the US
  • In association with William McDonough + Partners
  • 75,000 sf academic building
  • LEED Gold Certification
© Prakash Patel© Prakash Patel© Prakash Patel© Prakash Patel© Prakash Patel© Prakash Patel
“This project was a thorough collaboration between the two architecture firms, client, faculty, staff, students, and all consultants. The collaboration was logistical and intellectual; we talked about functionality, aesthetics, environmental, economical, and social justice concerns that should be taken into account when designing a building.”

Louis Goodman, American University Dean Emeritus of the School of International Service 

A Building That Speaks to Global Concerns

American University’s School of International Affairs (SIS) is the largest foreign service program in the U.S., representing nearly 150 nations. Following more than a half century of exceptional leadership in this important and evolving field, the university opened its new, 75,000-square-foot SIS building along the central quadrangle of the DC campus. The design of the building, which features classrooms, offices, a café, underground parking, and a library expansion, reflects the SIS commitment to ecological stewardship, the preservation of transparency and human dignity, and social justice.

Advancing Human and Environmental Health

Planning for the new SIS building involved many students and faculty members, including members of the university’s Global Environmental Politics Program. The building showcases eco-friendly design, including sustainable site measures, water-conserving strategies, rainwater harvesting, conservation-minded materials selection, natural light, nontoxic materials, high-performance glazing, climate control, and energy-efficient systems. The multilevel atrium—a light-filled gathering spot and student “crossroads"—brings abundant daylight into the building.

The large atrium serves as a gathering spot and brings natural light deep into the building. 
© Prakash Patel

© Prakash Patel

A perforated frieze along the façade panels was inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map of the world.