Schematic Design

How the Design Work began...

In 2007, our museum commissioned research and design, which resulted in an Initial Master Plan. Far from complete, this provided the basis for architects, SmithGroup, exhibit designers, Eisterhold Associates, and the marketing firm, Bernstein-Rein, to begin the work we call our Schematic Design. 

A detailed programming phase began in early 2009 and was based upon a preliminary program developed in an earlier master planning phase. The programming phase was completed in early 2010 and approved for schematic design development. The schematic design phase began in June 2010, and was completed early in November of that same year.

This narrative draws its verbatim content from that document, published in November 2010. You can download a PDF of it here: Schematic Design, or just look at the flip book images here...

Sustainable Objectives 

The National Hurricane Museum & Science Center will be designed to sustain a category 5 Hurricane. Furthermore, we recognize that building construction and their operation have extensive impact on the environment, both direct and indirect. Recent studies suggest that buildings account for over 35% of the world’s total energy use, 35% of CO2 emissions and create upwards of 60% of the non-industrial waste. This project will respond appropriately to challenges of environmental stewardship.

It will avoid resource depletion of energy, water, and raw materials; be liveable, comfortable, safe and productive and avoid environmental degradation throughout its lifetime. The following precepts will guide us as the project develops:

  • Optimize Site/Existing Structure Potential
  • Optimize Energy Use
  • Protect and Conserve Water
  • Use Environmentally Preferable Products
  • Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
  • Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

The Process 

The process to design the new museum began with a preliminary program of work and interpretive experience provided by a previous consulting team to the museum. The program and exhibit experience was discussed, modified, and reworked into a more accurate reflection of the current needs, as expressed by the Board of Directors. Subsequently the program and exhibit experience was tested through the development of focus group research and demand analysis for the project. This resulted in a right sizing of the program from approximately 114,000 GSF to 63,000 GSF and the development of a business plan supporting the smaller facility. These discussions and developments took place in a series of workshop meetings spanning over eight months.

Upon approval of the business plan, program, and exhibit experience the team evaluated three alternative sites along the water front of Lake Charles to site the museum. Each site was analyzed and strengths and liabilities noted. In workshop setting it was concluded that a site nearest the central business district would be most beneficial to both the city of Lake Charles and the NHMSC. There are numerous worldwide examples of the power of cultural facilities on the economic development and health of cities and we believe Lake Charles could realize a similar benefit.

A request to develop Tract 1-D, as identified in the Lake Charles Master Plan, was proposed to city leadership. Originally, that Master Plan called for the NHMSC to be located on Tracts 3 or 4, with Tract 2 set aside for construction of the America's Wetland Discovery Center. (In early 2010, the AWDC merged into the NHMSC, and a new Cooperative Endeavor Agreement was signed between the City and the NHMSC.) In October 2011, the "move" from Tract 2 to Tract 1-D, is expected to be approved by voters in a general election.

Conceptual designs for the exhibit and architectural experiences were approved by Board of Directors for schematic design development in June 2010. Schematic design began immediately thereafter.

The further development of the approved conceptual design continued during the schematic design phase. Each of the major building systems (architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical) were developed to a more detailed level and presented for input. In a similar manner, so too were the exhibit designs developed. The results of these efforts are compiled in this report.

This report was subsequently used in the development of the estimate of probable construction costs for the project.

Programming, Planning and Design Objectives

The programming for the project resulted in a demonstrated need for atotal of 63,000 gross square feet. Program spaces included museum pre-function spaces, exhibit galleries, 100-seat theater, administrative offices, 10,800 GSF of shelled future office space, a café, a museum store and museum support spaces.

The museum was envisioned as a single floor facility allowing the free flow of traffic between venues without the need of stairs, ramps or vertical transportation. The lobby and café have been planned so that each can operate independent of the museum functions. This allows a visitor or non museum-goer to access the lobby and café to enjoy the space, views of the lake and city without the necessity of purchasing a ticket. An unstated goal is to have the lobby function as a meeting place for the citizens of Lake Charles.

While envisioned as a single story structure, site circumstances necessitated moving some program functions to a second level. As a result the museum administrative offices and future tenant space has been moved to an upper level location.

The building is surrounded by the plaza/boardwalk along the water’s edge. This will accommodate program space for an outdoor wetland exhibit/themed boat ride as well as the extension of the city’s public servitude.

Site Plan

The site, chosen by the NHMSC and requested from the city, is Tract 1- D. The primary benefits of this site, its lakefront location and its proximity to the central business district make it the perfect choice. The facility construction will require less than a one half acre to be reclaimed from Lake Charles.

The museum’s front door is on Bor Du Lac Drive and is fronted by a plaza and a grassed lawn area sculpted as wave forms. The site plan accommodates the recently constructed lake front promenade fountain and allows for the continuation the public servitude along the shoreline.

Landscaping is simple yet striking and consistent with the city landscaping improvements made to date. Parking is assumed to utilize the Civic Center lot, immediately adjacent to the west, until such time as demand from the urban renaissance of Lake Charles will necessitate the construction of parking decks. It is the intention of this development to drive parking demand into the city proper so as to encourage collateral business and retail traffic. We have purposely limited the amount of surface roads and associated vehicular paving to maximize public space on the waterfront. We believe this is consistent with the city’s master plan.

Interior Organization

The museum planning is simple and easy to comprehend. Upon entry to the lobby, exhibit venues flank either side. The theater or “Big Show” is to the left and the main exhibit venue is to the right. A museum store and ticket office are immediately adjacent the entrance and a café that overlooks the waterfront is also visible from the entry doors. As noted earlier the administrative offices and future tenant space are located on an upper level, each with its own dedicated vertical circulation. Building support, loading and service areas are located on the far north end of the facility. These spaces are shielded from public view.

Exhibit Experience

The NHMSC proposes an integrated exhibit experience that has been carefully developed to fulfill the Center’s mission, vision, message, and unique place in the world. Visitors will be engaged in body and mind by experiences that impart, in a holistic and interwoven way, a thorough understanding of hurricanes and wetlands, and a road map for coexisting with both.

Exterior Image

The architectural concept for this facility is rooted in the power of the hurricane and what we as individuals feel as participants in this enormous phenomena. On a personal level we experience terrifying wind and water. The building form expresses in frozen forms the waves from the inevitable surge crashing ashore and cresting the immoveable object in its path. Materials are metaphorically employed to express these elements. Sleek metal curvilinear elements express the water and its terrifying movement and the solid concrete exterior of the museum (the container for our history, growing knowledge and personal resolve) is the embodiment of the immovable objects in its destructive path.

Our goal was to create an iconic structure that would become the symbol of the National Hurricane Museum & Science Center. If we are successful it could also become the symbol of Lake Charles, Louisiana. It will be our Bilbao, our Sidney Opera House, our Milwaukee Art Museum.

Program Summary (values= Gross Square Feet)

Program and Visitor Services (Public Non- Exhibit) 8,829

Exhibits (Public / Collections) 26,207

Private / Admin/Bldg Services 8,629

Future Partnership Space* 10,829

Building Support 11,573

Building Construction 2,819

TOTAL GSF 68,886

*This space will be shelled for future occupancy and tenant fit out. Effective NHMSC program space is 58,057 GSF.

Project Cost Summary

This report identifies a total project budget of $65,027,600. This project cost total includes a 15% design contingency, 5% construction contingency and a 9.75% escalation to 2014. The estimate allocates $41,033,400 building for design and construction.



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