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Louisiana Museum to Showcase History, Sports

By: Lori Lovely - CEG CORRESPONDENT

Photo courtesy of Trahan Architects The museum’s boxy exterior walls are clad in louvers of local wood planks, a reference to the rich timber legacy of the region.
Photo courtesy of Trahan Architects The interior opens to a parametric-built environment where light and space are formed by a series of complex walls.
Photo courtesy of Trahan Architects The architects’ conceptual design, intended to be reflective of the flow of the river, imparts a subterranean quality reminiscent of an underground room carved from centuries of moving water. Lighting from multiple directions adds relief to the heavy rock formations.

Natchitoches, La., the oldest settlement from the Louisiana Purchase, will soon celebrate divergent aspects of its history when the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame opens next year. The $12.6 million facility under construction on Front Street in the Historic District will showcase two seemingly disconnected subjects within one contemporary venue: sports and history.

“The project brings two programs formerly housed separately into a common venue tailored to exhibits and filled with state-of-the-art displays,” said John Davis, director of the state’s Office of Facility Planning and Control.

The Sports Hall of Fame will occupy the first floor of the 28,000-sq.-ft. museum building. The second floor will showcase sports memorabilia and house the Northwest Louisiana Regional History Museum, which will focus on the state’s cultural heritage.

Juxtaposed Influences

The project consists of construction of a steel structure with exterior copper louvers and interior precast concrete walls. Total project budget is $20.6 million, with construction accounting for approximately $12.5 million.

Site demolition and preparation began in late 2008. In 2009, work focused on utility relocation and drainage, as well as pilings and foundation work. Construction of the building started June 28, 2010. Currently, the exhibit design and fabrication is in progress, with a budget of $3.3 million. Expected completion of construction is January 2013. It will then take another six months to install and complete the finishing touches on the exhibits.


The museum has a projected opening of summer 2013.

But it may be the package that attracts as much attention as the contents. Overlooking the historic Cane River Lake at the boundary of the Red River valley, the building’s architecture takes its cues from the rolling landscape. Architecturally, the design of the building, which was crafted by Trahan Architects of Baton Rouge, La., will reflect historical components blended with contemporary features.

The museum’s boxy exterior walls are clad in louvers of local wood planks, a reference to the rich timber legacy of the region, but the interior opens to a parametric-built environment where light and space are formed by a series of complex walls. Trahan Architects derived the building’s geometry from the area’s “distinctive geomorphology and aspects of river hydromorphology.”

The building is designed to echo the contrast of the landscape’s uncomplicated horizon broken by the undulating, meandering body of water crisscrossing channels through the soft earth.

The architects’ conceptual design, intended to be reflective of the flow of the river, imparts a subterranean quality reminiscent of an underground room carved from centuries of moving water. Lighting from multiple directions adds relief to the heavy rock formations, transforming the entrance atrium, which will serve as a space for community gatherings and special events, into a geological fantasy. The image of fluid river channels separated by land masses also guided the organization of gallery arrangement and the layout of corridors for circulation.

Art Imitates Nature

Depicting the river’s flow, 1,150 unique precast stone wall panels will shape interior walls. Each stone weighs between 6,000 to 9,000 lbs. (2,721 to 4,082 kg), is BIM-designed and individually built and layered.

“According to the Precast Institute,” Davis said, “this is the first-ever application of curvilinear precast panels in our country.

“The greatest challenge on this project is fabrication and installation of the interior precast panels,” Davis added. “Each panel has a unique form, which is cut using a C&C machine. We are using BIM modeling and it is difficult to fabricate the panels from the model/shop drawing. Because each panel is unique and very heavy, it is challenging to manage the required connections. The self-supporting steel also is a challenge.”

As reported by Architecture Daily, Craft Engineering Studio worked collaboratively with the fabrication design team consisting of Method Design, the geometry and detailing consultant; CASE Inc., BIM manager and technology consultant; and David Kufferman P.E., specialty steel consultant and engineer. Together, they developed and engineered analytical models of the cast stone panels, as well as the complicated structural steel support structure that secures each stone panel with an individual set of customized connections.

Using an integrated multi-platform approach, they developed custom tools to manage the complex geometrical relationships between the flexible connection system and the structural support frame. Key to their success was programming software operated in conjunction with Robot structural analysis software and SDS/2 for steel detailing, which allowed Method to develop a system that allowed them to transfer geometrical data across multiple software programs. This resulted in creating a very detailed model of each structural member, support and connection.

Coordinating Detail

“Because of the uniqueness of the project and the unusual application of materials in ways they have not been used before, it has been a very challenging and amazing project,” Davis said. “Everything about this project is unique and innovative.”

The innovative and highly technical nature of the project requires meticulous communication.

“Every detail and aspect of the project is carefully reviewed [and] studied,” Davis indicated. “There are lots of conference calls and coordination meetings, mock-ups are done and some alternative methods are tried in order to determine what may be the best way to achieve the desired product.”

CASE, brought in to assist general contractor VCC, LLC with its first BIM project, provided modeling services for electrical, HVAC, sprinkler and precast. Using 3-D documents supplied by the design team, CASE developed custom automation procedures to create a fully detailed 3-D model consisting of more than 1,000 unique panels of the skin system to be used for structural analysis, fabrication, quantification and systems coordination. The model was used as a communication tool during weekly web-based coordination meetings, enabling sub-contractors, engineers, fabricators and tradesmen to easily understand and track issues in the context of other trades and focus on problem-solving. In addition, the model was used to generate shop tickets for use during fabrication.

VCC, along with major subcontractors Advanced Cast Stone, Masonry Arts and F.L. Crane, has been working six days a week, 10 hours a day, to meet the spring deadline. Assisting with this unique project is specialty construction equipment such as three articulated boom lifts, three reach-over forklifts, six or seven electric scissor lifts and a large crane. Materials used include steel, copper, precast concrete, storefront glass, integral white concrete and modified bitumen roofing materials.

Funding Flow

When completed, the museum will exhibit donated memorabilia embodying the contributions of diverse cultures that have shaped the state and promote understanding of Louisiana’s legacy.

“It’s the stuff of legends that will be showcased in a spectacular museum,” exclaimed Lisa Babin, president and chief executive officer of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation.

Just as the museum’s complex design reflects disparate subjects in one fluid structure encased within a locally inspired façade, and its exhibits represent divergent aspects of the southern state’s culture, so too does funding exemplify the coming together of incongruent methods. Last fall the state legislature’s bond commission approved $20 million in funding for the project. An additional $1.1 million in private donations was acquired.

“There has been $367,000 of the almost $1.1 million originally needed that has been already secured,” Babin said to reporters. “The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation is committed to raising the remaining $718,050 required to complete the exhibit plan.”

To do so, they held a month-long $250,000 challenge grant in September in which every monetary donation was matched up to a maximum of $250,000.

“We are thrilled by the generous support provided with this challenge grant which has the potential of raising $500,000 of the $718,050 needed,” said Babin. “This grant allows any gift to be instantly doubled, speeding us on our path of achieving our private funding goal.”

Exhibit-naming opportunities are expected to raise additional funds.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.constructionequipmentguide.com.) CEG