• Students create artwork in the spacious, colorful double height Studio. Photo by Will Crocker.

  • Students work in the second floor Learning Lab. Photo by Claire Bangser.

  • New entrance tower and canopy to the existing historic building. Photo by Will Crocker.

  • The new drop off pavilion connects to the existing campus walkway. Photo by Will Crocker.

Students create artwork in the spacious, colorful double height Studio. Photo by Will Crocker.

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  • Location New Orleans, LA
  • Client Ursuline Academy
  • Program PreK early learning center, drop-off and event pavilion
  • Area 7,370 SF
  • Project Team:

    Concordia (Architect of Record)
    Lamanna Engineering Consultants (Civil and Structural)
    WDG Architects and Engineers (MEP)
    Catco Inc. (Contractor)
    Will Crocker (Photography)
    Claire Bangser (Photography)

Ursuline Academy Early Learning Center

After Hurricane Katrina, the Ursuline Academy laundry building was transformed into an innovative early learning center, recognized for both its unique curriculum and synergistic design process.  Working closely with the school’s administration, teachers, and staff, the design team developed both curricular and architectural concepts based on teaching principles of responsibility and community through exploration and discovery, modeled after the Reggio Emilia curriculum.  By integrating biological forms and sacred geometry into the entryway, doors, guardrails, and spatial volumes, the project transforms into a three dimensional textbook.  Bright colors and dynamic shapes engage students in a creative environment that they enthusiastically liken to Disney World.

The feature space  is the double height Studio, which includes a conical “black box” theater, art center, science lab, and motor skills area.  Colorful volumes and a wooden reading loft are nestled beneath a canopy of undulating wood elements, suspended lights, and painted ductwork, creating a dynamic space scaled for small children.  Learning labs are arranged around a “Town Square” so the school feels like an educational village.  Movable partitions enable reconfiguration for different activities and sliding barn doors connect other labs to the Studio.  The lobby includes color changing lights and functions as a gallery for student artwork. Outside, a new entry tower and drop-off pavilion reference architectural elements of the historic campus.

The overwhelmingly positive feedback from teachers, students, and parents testifies to the project’s success in providing a stimulating, enriching early learning environment and in demonstrating the value of user engagement during the design process.

While including materials found throughout historic buildings on campus, such as slate and copper, the entry pavilion also reinterprets traditional canopies and arches in contemporary materials like steel and polycarbonate. The roof is sloped to accommodate solar panels.
While including materials found throughout historic buildings on campus, such as slate and copper, the entry pavilion also reinterprets traditional canopies and arches in contemporary materials like steel and polycarbonate. The roof is sloped to accommodate solar panels. Photo by Will Crocker.
New wood windows and white painted brick provide generous daylight to the Studio, where separate activity zones are defined by movable light wood furniture and colorful stripes on the rubber tile floor.
New wood windows and white painted brick provide generous daylight to the Studio, where separate activity zones are defined by movable light wood furniture and colorful stripes on the rubber tile floor. Photo by Will Crocker.
Designed for the scale of small children, the reading loft provides a space for small group breakouts within the larger Studio and features wood railings designed with geometric patterns.
Designed for the scale of small children, the reading loft provides a space for small group breakouts within the larger Studio and features wood railings designed with geometric patterns. Photo by Claire Bangser.
Wood sliding barn doors, designed to proportions of sacred geometry, connect learning labs to the Studio.
Wood sliding barn doors, designed to proportions of sacred geometry, connect learning labs to the Studio. Photo by Will Crocker.

 

The Town Square, where two adjacent learning labs meet, provides a space for students to breakout and work individually or in groups. Brightly colored accent walls with wood chair rails complement the playful furniture.
The Town Square, where two adjacent learning labs meet, provides a space for students to breakout and work individually or in groups. Brightly colored accent walls with wood chair rails complement the playful furniture. Photo by Will Crocker.

 

Student artwork is displayed in the entry gallery, which features color changing LED lighting and wood display niches.
Student artwork is displayed in the entry gallery, which features color changing LED lighting and wood display niches. Photo by Claire Bangser.

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