[StBernard] St. Bernard Cultural Arts & Community Center

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Mar 1 19:51:29 EST 2012

Top Design
Our annual picks of the best new architecture

St. Bernard Cultural Arts & Community Center
This year, although there were some fine residential projects, we're
highlighting five excellent institutional buildings. Two are associated with
universities, long a force for contemporary design. Two are buildings funded
by the state, one a building of innovative program downtown and the other is
found in our outstanding City Park. The final project was initiated by
neighboring St. Bernard Parish. They all continue the trend in greater New
Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina to build with an eye toward the future while
respecting our illustrious architectural heritage. They are all
demonstrative of principles of sustainable design as well, a new and old
concept of importance here.

St. Bernard Cultural Arts & Community Center

A major new building complex has arisen in Chalmette on Judge Perez Drive
across from Chalmette High School. The project combines two auditoriums for
the performing arts with public and school library functions.
Architecturally, it makes a bold statement and has a powerful presence in
its suburban location. The massing combines a sinuous, linear two-story bar
that accommodates most of the program with an organic, almost egg-shaped
mass that encloses the main theater volume. From Judge Perez Drive it's the
linear building that's immediately apparent with a well-defined elevated
corner of framed curtain wall. As one turns along Palmisano Street, the
strongly reflective metal panels of the auditorium skin become dominant. The
metal panel cladding is exceptionally attractive. The small panels catch the
light in a way that both reflects the sky and emphasizes the sculptural
mass. The small projections of the panel edges insure that they are
watertight and planar, but also produce a constantly changing shadow
pattern. The curved form plays against the regularity elsewhere in the
project to produce a great liveliness whether seen from close or far away.
There are other elements that animate the exterior as well; of particular
interest are the panels along the exterior bridge that connects to the
adjacent school.

Logically, the lobby is positioned between the two major masses, entered
from a generous colonnade along Palmisano. The colonnade sports sail-like
shading elements along its southeast-facing length. Inside, the organization
is clear, but the non-orthogonal plan lends a dynamic aspect to the space.
The main auditorium is well-proportioned and decked out with all the
accoutrements of contemporary stagecraft. The smaller hall is also
successful and has the added advantage of daylight.

Another fine space in the complex is the second-floor library. Beautifully
proportioned and detailed, with nice daylight, the space has an internal
coherence that's admirable, as well as a strong connection with the
boulevard beyond. It is a fitting architectural culmination to a new
landmark for St. Bernard Parish.

Waggonner & Ball Architect; David Waggonner, principal-in-charge; Charles
Sterkx, Brian Swanner, Sarah Weinkauf, project architects; Mac Ball, Kuan
Lo, Dennis Horchoff, Allen Tufts, John Kleinschmidt, Trinh Vu, Stephanie
Morrison, Emily Rogers

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