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.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2016

Year of substantial project completion: 2019

Gross conditioned floor area: 49,855 sq ft

Number of stories: 2

Project climate zone: ASHRAE 2A

Annual hours of operation: 2,268

Site area: 348,480 sq ft

Project site context/setting: Urban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $33,400,000

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 262,500

Project team

Arborist: Bayou Tree Service

Architect, Landscape Architect, Interior Designer: Mithun

Associate Architect: Waggonner & Ball

Building Envelope Consultant: 4EA Building Science

Daylighting Consultant: Integrated Design Lab

Engineer - Structural: Thornton Tomasetti

Engineer - Civil: Schrenk Endom Flanagan

Engineer - MEP: ARUP

Exhibit/Interpretive Design: Gyroscope, Inc.

Environmental Graphics Design: Studio Matthews

Food Service Consultant: JLR Design Group

General Contractor: Roy Anderson Corp.

Hardware: Gordon Adams

Lighting Design, Security, Telecom, Acoustics and AV: ARUP

Planting Design Consultant: Pastorek Habitats

Specifications: Applied Building Information

Strategic Educational Planning: Vergeront Museum Planning


Margaret Cavenagh, AIA, Chair, Studio Gang, Chicago

Angela Brooks, FAIA, Brooks + Scarpa, Los Angeles

Nakita Reed, AIA, NOMA, Quinn Evans, Baltimore

Z Smith, FAIA, Eskew Dumez Ripple, New Orleans

Image credits

Julia Street, the cross-axis connector, is infused with circular geometries in glass frits, perforated metal, lights and floor patterns

Kevin Scott

Aerial view looking south, featuring the courtyard, lagoon and New Orleans beyond

Kevin Barraco

Children playing on the Hummock Hop as water skims below.

Kevin Scott

A family enters through the lagoon porch, passing the Mardi Gras rails.

Kevin Scott

Aerial view with evening light illuminating the lagoon porch

Kevin Scott