From blueprints to bricks laid, LSMSA Commons comes to life

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LSMSA Guest entry - artist rendering

The student housing project at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (LSMSA) is nearing completion so we reached out to learn the process of such a large endeavor. Architects Doug Ashe, of Ashe Broussard Weinzettle, and Shane Higdon, of Tipton Associates, led the effort of designing the new Living/Learning Commons. The new Commons will provide housing for 360 students and the supporting student life staff in a live/learn environment.

It will feature a welcoming front porch and plaza that provide the primary pedestrian and vehicular entry, connecting to a double-height lobby and campus living room. The lobby dramatically focuses on landscaped green space (done by CARBO) both in the main entry plaza, as well as in the east and west courtyards. Extending from the living room, the commons area comprises study and gathering spaces.

The student residence halls are organized into 10 independently functioning “neighborhoods,” each with 36 students. Each neighborhood is comprised of nine, four-person suites and supported by a Hall Commons for gathering and and sharing a meal, a study lounge, laundry facilities and an office and apartment for the student life advisor. “The residential commons is beautiful, spacious, and a real architectural gem,” said LSMSA Executive Director Steve Horton.

Boys and girls hall
See additional photos in our print edition

Gray: What is the color scheme and why was it chosen?

Ashe and Higdon: The exterior colors and materials were selected to blend with the other buildings on the LSMSA campus, utilizing a red brick blend with a tan/grey brick for stair and elevator towers as well as the base around the buildings. Glass and metal colors are similar to those used on the adjacent CPT Building.  Blue tinted glass is used as an accent in several areas, a subtle reference to the school colors. There are 10 floors of suites, each with its own accent color.  Four shades of green are used as accent colors on the four male students floors; four shades of blue on the four female students floors; and two shades of yellow on the two flex floors, which can be either male or female depending on the student population ratio each year. Decorative blue glass is used in the Lobby.  Cypress slats add warmth at sitting nooks, study areas, the CRL Office, information kiosks and the reception desk.

Gray: We see what appears to be a glassed in area in one of the corners. What is this area?

Ashe and Higdon: Each of the 10 floors of suites has a Hall Commons shared by the 36 students on that floor, a place to gather, relax and share a meal.  At the end of each floor is a glassed Hall Study for small group study. The abundant use of glass throughout brings daylight into all public spaces, as well as views into the landscape and across both the LSMSA and NSU campuses on the upper floors.

Gray: Can you describe the demonstration kitchen? What size and what appliances are utilized?

advisor room – see additional photos in our print edition

Ashe and Higdon: The Demonstration Kitchen provides a gas cooktop, oven, refrigerator, freezer, sink and dishwasher with a central island and a built-in sitting bench.  Cooking classes could be held here for a small group of students, as well as preparing meals for receptions and special occasions.  A large pantry is also provided. Gray: What is the craft room? What amenities does it have? Ashe and Higdon: The Multi-Purpose Room will be used by student clubs and organizations for group crafts, art projects, making posters and decorations, etc.  Each club has its own storage closet.  Ample closets are provided for storing supplies.

Gray: Please describe the security features.

Ashe and Higdon: All exterior doors are equipped with controlled access and can only be opened with a proximity card reader.  Additionally, the female student card readers can only open doors into the female wing, and the male student card readers can only open doors into the male wing.  A reception desk, manned 24 hours a day, is centrally located with views of both the female student elevators and the male student elevators.

Gray: What medical equipment will be available in the nurse’s station?

Ashe and Higdon: The Health Services Suite has an Exam Room, a full Medicine Room, a central Nurse Station, three Sick Rooms for overnight stay and observation, and two Nurse Offices.

Gray: What is the expected completion date?

Hall common room
Photos by Hannah Richardson

Ashe and Higdon: Construction will be completed in late February, furniture and equipment will be moved in over the summer, and the new Commons will open in August 2021 for the fall semester. Construction took about 20 months and will be completed about six months ahead of schedule.

“We are about four weeks away from a completion date.  Final projects are being wrapped up, workers are in and out literally 24 hours a day, and soon the parking lots and landscape will provide the finishing touches to what I still consider a dream!” Horton said.

The Commons is a State of Louisiana project administered by Facility Planning & Control (FP&C). The joint venture team of Ashe Broussard Weinzettle and Tipton Associates (ABW/Tipton) was selected through the Louisiana Architects Selection Board. Ratcliff Construction of Alexandria is the General Contractor.  The construction contract amount is a little over $25 million.

The four story building is about 111,500 square feet. The ABW/Tipton JV is responsible for the interior design features of the building.  The interior color scheme was developed by the interior design studio of Tipton Associates, in close collaboration with the LSMSA staff.

Student dorms

Additionally, the Tipton interior design studio is responsible for selecting all furniture, again in close collaboration with the LSMSA staff.

Project Team

Architect – Ashe Broussard, Weinzettle Architects/ Tipton Associates/ A Joint Venture

Structural Engineer – BluDot

Mechanical Engineer – John Guth & Associates

Electrical Engineer – John Guth & Associates

Civil Engineer – Pan American Engineers

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In Weekend, Feb. 113-14, 2021, print edition