L.B. Landry High School
Photo © Timothy Hursley

CASE STUDY: L.B. Landry High School, New Orleans , Louisiana, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

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By Linda C. Lentz

Architect: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
CLIENT: State of Louisiana; Department of Education, Recovery School District
SIZE: 236,000 square feet (gross)

EXTERIOR CLADDING: Prairie Stone (masonry);
Centria (metal panels); Neogard (moisture barrier)
Curtain wall: Kawneer (metal); Viracon (glass)
roofing: Johns Manville (built-up); Berridge (metal)

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When Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans in 2005, it impacted more than 120 schools in the Orleans Parish School District (OPSD). Already suffering from the abuse of time and neglect, L.B. Landry High School (Landry) was shuttered after the storm because of extensive rain and wind damage. Few expected it to reopen. But Landry has deep roots in Algiers, a residential neighborhood rich in local architecture across the Mississippi from the central business district. More than 70 years old, Landry was the first high school in the area to admit African-American students. So a dedicated cadre of alumni, community leaders, and newly energized city and state officials rallied to save it from the wrecker's ball.

Their opportunity came through a joint effort of the OPSD and the Recovery School District (RSD), a special district established in 2003 by the Louisiana Department of Education to oversee substandard schools and, now, postrecovery initiatives. The two agencies were soliciting proposals for Quick Start schools, one in each of the city's five Council Districts, to be realized while they devised a long-term $1.8 billion master plan (largely funded by FEMA) to transform the city's devastated education system with state-of-the-art programs and facilities. To qualify, local committees had to demonstrate an immediate need, as well as the viability and potential for such a project. Landry's support group not only confirmed its commitment; it substantiated the school's historic significance and potential as a community resource and catalyst for the future redevelopment of Algiers.

The existing facility, a city block of one- and two-story buildings arranged around a courtyard, was slated for demolition and replacement. The New Orleans-based Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (EDR) was selected to design a new 200,000-square-foot, $55 million building for the site. "We were given five months to go from delivery of program to completion of bid documents," says architect Steve Dumez, the EDR principal in charge. Working with education architects SHW, Dumez and his team created a scheme that retains the old school's basic layout, with one notable exception. Instead of enclosing a central quadrangle, they removed one wing to provide visual access into the heart of the school, as well as back out to downtown New Orleans.

The brief stipulated a building for 1,000 students that meets stringent hurricane-resistance standards, earns LEED for Schools Silver certification, and allocates areas for community services. The architects developed a U-shaped concrete-and-steel-framed structure covered in cast-stone and insulated-metal panels. They raised the foundation three feet higher than the adjacent street to avert flooding. Echoing the original school's plan, they created two longitudinal academic wings extending from a rear hub, stacking classroom floors above a community clinic on one side and a dual-use student/public media center on the other. Fully glazed on the courtyard side, these public areas can be separated from the school by rolling gates and accessed from the street. EDR continued the glazing on the building's three-story west facade, adding a brise-soleil to control solar gain. Inside, they inserted a corridor, dubbed Main Street, that directs traffic to an open cafeteria, a vocational/technology center, and a courtyard on the ground floor, or up a grand stair to a double-height lobby and fully outfitted arts and sports complexes.

On track for LEED Silver (at publication), Landry has sustainable features designed to be didactic, says Tracy Lea, EDR project director. In particular, he notes that daylight filters through roof monitors, diffused by perforated metal ceilings; illuminates the school's two gyms with rows of skylights; and penetrates classrooms via clerestory windows. Meanwhile, Lea adds, a water runoff feature in the courtyard (funded by Global Green) manages excess rainwater from the roof, and shedlike sections on the low-albedo white roof are ready to receive photovoltaic panels when funds become available.

Open since August 2010, L.B. Landry High School points to a bright future for the youth of Algiers. With its direct line of sight toward the skyline of New Orleans - a city striving to rebuild and learn from the past - the new building offers them a sense of place and vision of tomorrow.


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