Greater Lafayette Career Academy

Cordogan Clark and Keystone Architecture collaborated to design the state-of-the-art Greater Lafayette Career Academy in Lafayette, Indiana.

The Greater Lafayette Indiana Career Academy is a new high school that serves the County’s three school corporations. Students enroll at the Career Academy for hands-on training in simulated workspaces to prepare for technical and trade professions. The facility alleviates enrollment pressure on local schools and provides skilled graduates who can enter the workforce in response to regional growth.

The project renovated 65,000 square feet of an existing commercial office building. A modern and inviting entry welcomes students into the Academy, while generous glazing throughout lightens the interior and showcases classrooms and labs. The overall design sets the tone of higher expectations for students who attend class here.
Culinary Arts, Criminal Justice, Computer Science, Health Sciences, Education Professions, and “Project Lead The Way” (which provides career pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science) were the selected programs for inclusion. The transformation of an office building that saw its last major renovation in the late 1970s into a 21st century learning environment involved much more than creating educational spaces for these programs. The successful conversion also meant reorganizing vertical and horizontal circulation to comply with ADA requirements and accommodate student movement. It meant creating a secure and accessible entry and administration space, and barrier free and gender-neutral restrooms. And it meant replacing the existing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing infrastructure.

The new heart of the building is its central atrium with a monumental stair, elevator, and skylight. To create this space required cutting and reinforcing the existing cast-in-place concrete structure with both steel and carbon fiber, and reframing the roof structure. The design transformed a dimly lit, cubicle-filled office building into an inspiring learning environment. The new main entry reaches out from the 1950s modernist façade. The entry converts the previous loading dock into a new face for the building, signaling the interior transformations on the exterior.

Program development for the Academy began in 2016. Interviews with educators from each area of instruction and site visits to other career and technical education facilities throughout the Midwest helped generate a detailed program. A phased approach prioritized the programs that best fit within the existing building for the initial phase of the project. A 1950s building on 8.5 acres in the heart of Lafayette was acquired to create the Academy. Though its structure and exterior masonry walls remained viable, the building was updated for the 21st century, with new mechanical and electrical systems, dramatic skylit atrium, and many other features.

Architect: Cordogan Clark and Keystone Architecture
Photography: Mark Ballogg, John Clark