Eskew+Dumez+Ripple completes new high school as part of New Orleans' quick-start program
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, flooding 80% of the city and essentially destroying the public school system. This new high school for the Louisiana Department of Education Recovery School District was part of a post-Katrina 'quick start' construction program to accelerate the replacement of five damaged schools within an extremely aggressive timeline (6 months for design and 20 months for construction). The 236,000 sq ft building serves a student population of over 900 students and contains a 1000-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 theatre.
The planning of the school is organised around an academy system - comprehensive groupings of classrooms, labs and support spaces. The design establishes academic ‘houses’ for each grade level provided within two classroom wings. The organisation 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 core learning spaces are configured 'horizontally', one academic house per grade, including classrooms and science labs.
Complementing these are 'vertical' mixed-age houses in faculty-selected specialty areas: construction technology (carpentry, welding, masonry, electrical and plumbing labs); fine arts (2D and 3D media and scene building studios), performing arts (band, choir, drama, dance and recording studios) and professional careers (CAD, health sciences, and business labs). These are connected by 'Main Street', an open, multi-level commons area designed to promote student interaction.
The program also includes a media centre / 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 a LEED for Schools Silver certification anticipated. Many of these, including a stormwater management system and photovoltaic energy harvesting system, were designed as highly visible, didactic elements of the project for use as teaching tools for faculty and students.