Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts – Living Learning Commons

Ashe Broussard Weinzettle Architects and Tipton Associates worked together to complete the Living Learning Commons for the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) is known as one of the best public high schools in the nation. The school was founded in 1982 to serve as the flagship public-supported high school in the State of Louisiana’s system. We, along with our joint venture partners at Tipton Associates, were selected to provide new residences for 360 students and student life staff in a new 108,000 square foot residence hall.

Students from across the state journey from their hometowns and begin taking up residence at LSMSA as early as their sophomore year. It quickly became clear to our design team that while the new residences would support the academic pursuits of the students, it was equally important that they also provide a supportive home and community environment.

Concepts of connectivity and openness drive the formal organization of the building. A large, welcoming front porch provides the primary pedestrian entry, sharing a courtyard with an adjacent classroom building. The wood elements at the underside of the porch roof delicately slip into the building to form a double-height lobby and campus living room, essentially a transparent glazed breezeway that opens to a terrace and courtyard overlooking the athletic field beyond. The south end of the lobby dramatically focuses on a mature grouping of Live Oaks, carefully preserved by the positioning of the building’s footprint, creating a shaded gathering space for the students.

The commons area that wraps and extends out from the living room is an inviting series of gathering spaces, formal and informal, that balances social and academic needs. The student commons culminates in an intimate student lounge that opens to a covered porch and large firepit area, elevated and oriented west overlooking the athletic fields – a great place for students to wind down after a rigorous day in the classroom.

The student residences themselves are organized into ten independently functioning “neighborhoods.” This organizational structure allows students to engage at a personal level and become more closely acquainted with one another. Each neighborhood is comprised of nine four-person suites and is supported by a hall commons to hang out in and share a meal, a quiet study lounge, and laundry facilities, along with an office and residence for the Student Life Adviser.

Design: Ashe Broussard Weinzettle Architects and Tipton Associates
Contractor: Ratcliff Companies
Photography: Alan Karchmer