Architects: Trahan Architects
Location: Natchitoches, LA, USA
Project Architect: Brad McWhirter AIA
Design Team: Ed Gaskin AIA, Mark Hash, Michael McCune AIA
Design Principal: Victor F. “Trey” Trahan, III FAIA
Project Team: Sean David, Blake Fisher, Erik Herrmann, David Merlin, Benjamin Rath, Judson Terry
Area: 28000.0 sqm
Photographs: Tim Hursley
Interior Designer: Lauren Bombet Interiors
Structural Engineer: LBYD
Civil Engineer: CSRS
The Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame in historic Natchitoches, Louisiana merges two contrasting collections formerly housed in a university coliseum and a nineteenth century courthouse, elevating the visitor experience for both. Set in the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase on the banks of the Cane River Lake, the design mediates the dialogue between sports and history, past and future, container and contained.
Our exploration focuses on three questions. How does our design explore the client brief to exhibit sports and history simultaneously? How does it respond to the historic building fabric? How does it make a connection to context?
Our resolution is, first, to interpret athletics as a component of cultural history rather than as independent themes. While sports and regional history may appeal to different audiences, the exhibits and configuration explore interconnections between the two. The spaces flow visually and physically together, configured to accommodate state-of-the-art exhibits, education and support functions. Visitors however can experience both narratives either separately or simultaneously.
Second, historical pastiche is set aside in favor of a design language in response to the site. The internal organization is an extension of the existing meandering urban circulation, while the design mediates the scale and character of the historic commercial core and adjacent residential neighborhood. The “simple” exterior, clad with pleated copper panels, alluding to the shutters and clapboards of nearby plantations, contrasts with and complements the curvaceous interior within. The louvered skin controls light, views and ventilation, animates the facade, and employs surface articulation previously achieved by architectural ornamentation. The flowing interior emerges at the entrance, enticing visitors to leave the walking tour and into the evocative exhibit spaces within.
Third the design reflects the carving of the ancient river whose fluvial geomorphology inspired the dynamic interior form. The dynamic foyer is sculpted out of 1,100 cast stone panels, seamlessly integrating all systems and washed with natural light from above. The cool white stone references bousillage, the historic horse hair, earth and Spanish moss utilized by 17th Century settlers.The flowing surfaces reach into the galleries, serving as “screens” for film and display. At the climax of the upper level, the path arrives at a veranda overlooking the city square, sheltered by copper louvers, further connecting the interior to the public realm.