New New Orleans Architecture 6 Buildings Among The Best
by John P. Klingman
New Orleans Magazine / 03.01.2014
There is an abundance of new school construction throughout New Orleans generated by the Recovery School District and their multinational consort, Jacobs Engineering. Typically, they’re large new buildings on very small sites. While true in this case, this project differs strikingly from the norm, in that the new structure expands a 1937 building. The William Frantz School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its importance during the struggles of the Civil Rights era. The new building and the beautifully restored older structure complement each other architecturally, both inside and out in a striking manner. The restored traditional local St. Joe brick façades play off the contemporary palette of metal panels and glass, particularly in conjunction with a finely detailed aluminum sunscreen system. Together, the buildings participate in forming a U-shaped, well-proportioned courtyard, which is accessible to the students from the cafeteria and the gymnasium above.
Inside daylight abounds, both in the new structure that contains all of the school’s special program spaces and in the historic building with all of the elementary grade classrooms. The architects introduced interior lightshelves into the restored classrooms and utilized high performance glazing in the new building. Along the courtyard edge, an all-glass hallway on three levels offers shaded daylight and a fine view of the activity below and the neighborhood beyond. The walls of the rooms on the other side of the hallway are angled slightly to introduce dynamic interest as the children move between the historic and the 21st-century structure. The gymnasium is lit with large clerestory lighting all around, and there’s also a double-height black box performance space, that can also be opened to the view when complete lighting control isn’t necessary. This is a building that truly celebrates its past while supporting aspirations toward the future.