Retaining Water

Nov. 11, 2019

The Louisiana Children’s Museum, by Mithun, builds off the lessons of Hurricane Katrina, first by taking advantage of the natural habitat, and including a lagoon as part of the grounds. The facility itself, was also broken into a pair of joined buildings to protect a grove of oak trees.

New Orleans, La.
© Webb Bland

Following Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Children’s Museum (LCM) adapted its mission to respond to the changing needs of its recovering community. By integrating indoor and outdoor interactive experiences in a park setting, LCM presents a unique model for children’s museums.

The museum’s new home, designed by Mithun, is distributed into two linked buildings that are carefully sited to protect a significant grove of live oaks, part of a World Heritage Site. The design builds resilience into the lagoon edge with native plantings that will absorb rain and flood water and creates open space that reinforces environmental education. The choreography of the visitor experience connects people and nature—moving through groves of live oaks, across water and into a courtyard and sensory gardens.

Building structures and window systems are designed per New Orleans’ requirements for extreme storm events. The site is designed to retain up to 3 ft. of water in a regular storm, and the building and site mechanical equipment are elevated 5 ft. above surrounding grade to reduce damage in extreme storm events. The building is constructed on piers so that water flows under the building and can recharge the lagoon, unimpeded by building foundations. Holding rainwater on this site reduces flooding within surrounding neighborhoods. The design also incorporates passive-energy strategies of shading with louvers and overhangs; light-colored paving reduces heat-island effect.

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