In honor of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple’s twenty-fifth anniversary, each week in the month of September we will highlight a project designed by the studio and revisit the world events and pop culture that defined the times.
While it’s hard to remember what life was like before the internet, we look to 1994 as a year of great leaps in technology with the release of the first Macintosh computer and the beginnings of America Online giving the average American access to the World Wide Web and the melodic “be-doings” of dial-up.
At the time, though, you still watched shows on your television and the nation was glued to their sets with the premiere of Friends and ER. What they weren’t watching was the World Series, since MLB players went on strike and prematurely ended the season that year. Greenday, Ace of Base and Salt-n-Pepa were the pop virtuosos of the day and a young Tom Hanks, as Forrest Gump, reminded us that “life is like a box of chocolates…
For a young Allen Eskew, this was an important year. Not only did it mark the tenth anniversary of the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair, but his newly formed practice, known then as Eskew Filson, was celebrating its fifth anniversary and the completion of the Jean Lafitte Environmental Education Center: an 8,600 square foot facility designed to give visitors a firsthand experience of the unique swampland environments native to Louisiana.
As practitioners in southern Louisiana, we know the importance of adapting to our changing environment and view the landscape around us as a critical driver to the work we produce. The education center is an early example of intuitive “sustainable” design that preceded the advent of the USGBC LEED rating system (by a decade) or the modeling and simulations that shape the way we design buildings today.
Designed with the utmost concern for the land and waterways that surround it, the facility was built on concrete pilings that support an auditorium equipped for film and video presentations, laboratories and administrative offices. Comprising a palette of locally sourced, durable materials, the facility is nestled unobtrusively into its setting and provides an ideal location from which to learn about the Barataria Preserve's 23,000 acres of bayous, swamps, marshes and forests; alligators, nutrias, and over 200 species of birds.