Louisiana Children's Museum
Architect Firm: Mithun, with associate architect firm Waggonner & Ball
Owner: Louisiana Children's Museum
Location: New Orleans
Project site: Previously developed land
Building program type(s): Education – General, Food Service – Restaurant/Cafeteria, Public Assembly – Entertainment/Culture
2022 COTE Top Ten Plus Honoree
Following Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana Children’s Museum reframed its mission to address storm-related trauma and the state’s consistent ranking among the lowest 5% nationally for educational outcomes. The LCM developed a new model for children’s museums—one that combines environmental education and colocation of community resources with conventional children’s play elements—uniquely adapted to a new eight-acre site in New Orleans City Park. Connecting children to nature and bringing the environment into the museum experience were at the core of the learning framework. The integrated campus design optimizes the environmental assets of the site, which features mature live oak trees, a freshwater lagoon connected to Bayou St. John, and a resilience role as a local stormwater receiving area. The choreography of the visitor experience connects families with nature—moving through groves of live oaks, across water, through immersive exhibits, and into a courtyard and sensory gardens. The Reggio Emilia child development philosophy—a child-centered approach that emphasizes multisensory nature play—guided the design of experiential and haptic elements that cast changing shadows and inspire interactive rainwater engagement while providing energy reductions and stormwater utility. Artwork by multiple local artists throughout the campus grounds it in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina origins come full circle with Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog Sculpture; water becomes a nonthreatening element as children run joyfully through the periodic and magical mist that envelopes the “diatom” landing of the entry bridge. The museum aims to maximize resilience, environmentally and socially. Building and site are designed to accommodate periodic flooding, and mitigate the hot, humid climate with centuries-old passive strategies alongside innovative radiant floor cooling. By co-locating the Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, and literacy and parenting resources with hands-on gathering and play exhibits, the museum presents a groundbreaking precedent that advances community resilience and future generations.