In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, flooding 80 percent of the city and essentially destroying the public school system. This new high school for the Louisiana Department of Education was part of a post-Katrina "quick start" construction program to accelerate the replacement of five damaged schools. It had an extremely ASSOCIATED FIRMSHW GroupCAPACITY950COST PER SQ FT$232.00CITATIONSpecial CitationFEATURED IN2011 Architectural Portfolio timeline (six months for design and 20 months for construction) while a comprehensive master plan for the New Orleans school system was underway.
The 236,000-square-foot building serves a student population of more than 900 students and contains a 1,000-seat competition gymnasium, a 250-seat auxiliary gym and a 650-seat auditorium. Additional performing-arts spaces include classroom and rehearsal spaces for dance, choir, band and art, as well as a black-box theater.
The design establishes academic houses for each grade level provided within two classroom wings. The organization of these wings creates a central courtyard for outdoor gatherings space focused around a mature magnolia tree that existed on the site of the previous school. The program also includes a media center/library as well as a health clinic, both of which are designed to provide after-hours access to the general public for use as a community resource.
The building incorporates numerous sustainable design strategies, with LEED for Schools silver certification anticipated. The exterior skin utilizes storm-resistant materials—masonry, insulated metal panels, impact-resistant glazing—that also contribute to energy efficiency.
Locally sourced interior materials such as terrazzo flooring and glazed masonry units were selected for durability, low emissions and high recycled content. Partitions and mechanical equipment respond to best practices for speech recognition and acoustics in learning spaces.
Daylighting is employed significantly in classrooms and common areas. Stormwater harvesting, efficient plumbing fixtures and native landscaping yield a 20 percent reduction in water consumption. Overall energy use models at 32 percent below baseline.
"A very sophisticated and upbeat response to the need for transforming a community. We like the way they integrated sustainability in a very architectural way. The orientation sets the building up for success. The wall treatments are thought of in a way that pulls together the ceilings—sophisticated and composed."--2011 jury