Project description, provided by Trahan Architects:
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.
The Engineering Design of the Cast Stone Panels and the Shaped Surface Support Steel (SSSS), written by David Kufferman PE:
The cast stone surface can be described as a 1051 piece 3d jigsaw puzzle that weighs about 700 tons, with each piece separately made according to its own unique, digitally created pattern, and therefore having a different size and shape from any other piece. The puzzle can only be properly assembled if all the pieces are nearly perfectly made, otherwise, the pieces will not fit together properly. The task is further complicated by the fact that this massive 3d jigsaw puzzle must be supported by a steel space frame, which is in turn supported either by a ground floor slab on grade, which is essentially rigid, or by the second floor framing, which will deflect under load, thereby causing a change to the geometry of the puzzle as load is applied or removed. Again, if some panels move too much, while others move little, if at all, the pieces of the puzzle will no longer fit properly. A brittle material like cast stone cannot tolerate much movement without the risk of cracking.
Early on in the design process, it was hoped that the great compressive strength of the cast stone might be exploited through shell action, but the overall surface was far too irregular to allow for this kind of behavior to happen. This was only possible in cases where panels could be stacked into a wall that was more or less vertical, though they still had to be tied back to steel framing to keep them stable. Far more often than not, the panels had to be fully supported by the steel framing hidden behind them. Indeed, movement connections were required in nearly all panels, specifically to prevent shell action, since accumulating forces flowing from panel to panel through their anchor bolts would have failed these bolts had the panels been fully restrained. Ceiling panels that were close to horizontal could only be supported by hanging them from a steel frame. Most other panels were somewhere between these two conditions, and had to be bolted directly to the steel frame using connections having a large degree of adjustability to allow for the ever varying geometry.
In some cases connections were easily accessible for welding, but in other cases the erection sequence would make access to some connections impossible, so ‘blind’ connections had to be developed. In areas exposed to the weather, it was feared that hot fragments from field welding might damage waterproofing below the connection, which necessitated fully bolted and galvanized connections with six degrees of adjustability, and often ‘blind’ as well. In the end, over two dozen ‘typical’ panel connection types had to be developed, depending on whether the panels were stacked, bolted up, hung, or some kind of hybrid; whether the panel was interior or exterior; and whether the connection was accessible or ‘blind’. Still, many completely unique connections had to be developed on a case by case basis.
As the original digital surface in the Trahan model was ‘panelized’ in five sequences by CASE using Catia, our team took over. David Kufferman Structural Engineers worked with Method Design to develop the structural geometry of the supporting steel frame in digital space. Using the appropriate panel connections developed by Kufferman, Method Design created a digital model in Rhinoceros, with automated steel framing geometry definition using Grasshopper, based on preliminary framing element shapes and their location parameters as specified by Kufferman. Panel anchor type and locations were fully defined, and this information passed back to CASE so that final panel shop tickets could be generated for cast stone panel production. Kufferman and Method Design worked together to vary such parameters until an acceptable frame geometry was obtained, to minimize the number of complex mitered butt welded ‘kinks’, but without allowing steel framing elements to either get too close or too far from the back surface of the cast stone panels. Every single connective element specified by Kufferman was defined in the BIM by Method Design. Over 2,150 separate panel connections were needed for the project, with each connection providing support to any number from one to four panels.
The resulting Shaped Surface Support Steel, or ‘SSSS’ frame, was then analyzed under load using Robot, a three dimensional structural analysis program. Method Design used yet another program called Geometry Gym to convert the Rhinoceros model into a Robot input file. Kufferman, in collaboration with Craft Engineering Studio in New York City, refined the Robot models, modifying support and connective conditions so as to best simulate what was to be expected in reality. Over-stressed or excessively flexible elements were beefed up when necessary, and under-stressed elements were lightened when possible to reduce steel weight, and the structure reanalyzed. Once an acceptable SSSS had been fully developed, the Rhinoceros model would be updated, and then the file would be converted into SDS/2, a steel detailing program, so shop drawings could be generated. Kufferman and Method Design worked with Global Steel Detailing for this task.
Steel was fabricated and erected by Champion Steel of Louisiana and CMC of South Carolina. A total station that was digitally referenced to the BIM was used to locate steel during erection such that any point anywhere on the steel had to be within ½” of the specified location. The same system was used to precisely locate the cast stone panels as they were erected by the installer, Masonry Arts.
The precise specification, fabrication and erection of the SSSS became especially critical during the second sequence, which included all of the exterior cast stone panels. Since the panels were considered to act as a rain screen rather than a waterproof barrier, the steel elements had to be installed prior to the waterproofing system, which had to occupy the space between the cast stone and the SSSS. The panels could only be installed after the waterproofing was complete. This meant that the galvanized connection elements to which the cast stone panels had to be bolted, as well as the galvanized stand-off tubes that penetrated the waterproofing, had to be precisely shop-welded to the SSSS frame, with no possible provision for field-modification afterwards. Galvanized clips with long slotted holes and galvanized A325 slip-critical bolts had to be used to accommodate all tolerances. Open slotted holes were used for ‘blind’ connections.
In the case of the final sequence, which was the cast stone surface defining the atrium and the monumental stair, concern was raised about deflections, due to the fact that the SSSS that provided support for the 165 tons of cast stone in this area was completely carried by the second floor framing. The Robot analysis of this sequence included the floor beams, so that an accurate estimate of the deflections could best be achieved. It was indeed found that the overall flexibility of the system would lead to panel fitment problems if nothing was done, despite the fact that code mandated deflection criteria was easily satisfied. A structure that does not deflect under load is, quite simply, a physical impossibility. Theoretically, the only way to get the geometry perfect would be to predeflect the SSSS frame using ballast equal to the cast stone panels in both weight and distribution.
Because of the practical problems surrounding the procurement and installation of 165 tons of ballast over about 500 connections, an alternative approximate means of predeflection was devised, using two concentrated loads totaling 24 tons, hung from temporary frames. As panels were erected, panel positions were continuously monitored so that the predeflection loads could be reduced appropriately. This procedure successfully minimized the racking and distortion problems that were anticipated, while using ballast equal to only 15% of the final panel weight.
The cast stone panels were fabricated by our client, Advanced Cast Stone.
Project: Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame
Location: Natchitoches, Louisiana
Client/Owner: State of Louisiana, Office of Facility, Planning & Control
Architect: Trahan Architects
Key Personnel: Victor F. “Trey” Trahan, III FAIA – President/Design Principal, Brad McWhirter AIA - Project Architect, Ed Gaskin AIA – Designer, Mark Hash – Designer, Michael McCune AIA - Designer
Project Team: Sean David, Blake Fisher, Erik Herrmann, David Merlin, Benjamin Rath, Judson Terry
Interior Designer: Lauren Bombet Interiors
Mechanical / Electrical / Plumbing / Fire Protection Engineer: Associated Design Group
Structural Engineer: LBYD
Civil Engineer: CSRS
Geotechnical Engineer: GeoConsultants
General Contractor: VCC
Landscape Architect: Reed Hilderbrand Associates
BIM Manager and Technology: Case
Cast Stone Support Steel Geometry and Detailing: Method Design
Cast Stone Support Steel Engineer: David Kufferman PE
Acoustics: SH Acoustics
Waterproofing: Water Management Consultants & Testing, Inc.
UPDATE, Sep 27, 13: In response to the reader discussion about the "critical regionalism" aspect of the project, Trahan Architects just provided us with pictogram diagrams that describe the influence of place and regional context upon the architecture and help facilitate a better understanding of what the architects were trying to accomplish.