Lake Charles, Louisiana
Master Planning, Programming
Several Louisiana stakeholders envisioned a museum and science center to educate and increase public awareness about the hurricanes and tropical storms that impact the coastal United States. The facility and a nearby memorial would also serve to honor lives lost and reflect on lessons learned to help society better prepare for extreme weather events. The client selected a museum site near downtown Lake Charles, and a memorial site in nearby Cameron, where Hurricane Audrey came ashore in 1957, claiming more than 550 lives and obliterating much of the community. Little more than live oak trees remained.
The building form of sleek metal curvilinear forms expresses cresting waves and the irrepressible power of this weather phenomenon. Inside, visitors can virtually experience the impact of these natural forces through interactive exhibits, displays, and accounts of past events that relate both tragedy and triumph. The facility includes exhibit galleries, a 150-seat theater, event space, administrative offices, café and retail shop. The memorial occupies a 24-acre site along the Creole Nature Trail. A crushed seashell path winds through a bosque of 550 live oak trees—one for each live lost—and along a circular meadow of tidal grasses.