Celebrate Lafayette: Young SERA Designers Win Competition
Occasionally, a group of emerging designers here at SERA will pool their talents and take on an independent design challenge. Such was the case when Krystan Menne, Kristin Slavin, and Jodi Hanson heard about the “[Imagine Downtown] Lafayette, LA” open-ideas competition a few months ago. Not only did this interdisciplinary team of designers dive into this competition on their own time — they came out as one of the winners! If you happen to be near the Acadiana Center for the Arts in April, be sure to check out the exhibition.
The Challenge (in the words of the competition organizers):
“Lafayette’s downtown district is a huge asset to the city’s economy, but its full value cannot be realized because of the many vacant properties, underutilized parking lots, lack of affordable housing, and poor pedestrian connectivity to surrounding residential neighborhoods and the University of Louisiana, Lafayette campus. With a new design, downtown Lafayette can be transformed into a top-notch urban environment that more effectively and aesthetically serves ALL of its users.”
Competing teams each chose from one of six sites in and around Downtown. Krystan, Kristin, and Jodi focused on Site 4: Transportation Hub, a bus and rail station area currently disconnected from the University and the larger community.
Why This Competition?
As Krystan, Kristin, and Jodi read through the competition details, they were compelled by the issues facing Lafayette. Having each experienced different versions of the same challenges (e.g., bikeway connection gaps, public space voids, low density conditions) in other cities, the designers were encouraged by the sense that Lafayette is poised to make positive changes in the near future.
Overview of the Team’s Approach:
“Looking toward the future celebrations that reinforce the culture of Lafayette and strengthen the downtown neighborhood, we create a center that connects adjacent neighborhoods and the University with the downtown core and transit hub while making engaging spaces for life downtown.”
Design Philosophy Narrative:
“The residents of Lafayette need a downtown that allows them to celebrate the rich cultural fabric of their city each day of the year – in addition to the established traditional celebrations. Currently, the closed gates of the city’s parks and the limited walkability of the streets leave the people of Lafayette looking for the party. The sights, smells, and sounds of celebration that come along with events like Mardi Gras, the Crawfish Festival, and others can become part of daily life for the people of Lafayette.
“Connecting Parc International and Parc Sans Souci with a new Children’s Museum makes both of these public spaces more successful and increases residents’ ownership of these spaces. By opening the gates of Parc International, this truly public space can be enlivened with celebrations on a daily basis in addition to the traditions and celebrations already established in Lafayette.
“Addressing the issue of connection and access, we delineate exciting, celebratory paths that connect the adjacent neighborhoods and the University to the downtown core. Because it is nearly impossible to create new railroad crossings, we focused on mitigating the sense of the railroad as a barrier by improving the existing connections with pedestrian access and wayfinding strategies. These new connections to the public transit hub encourage ridership and enable easier access to the downtown core.
“With the paths laying the framework, we propose infill focused on bringing vital life to downtown. We develop the pedestrian culture, bring more activity to the street, and decrease the need for commuter parking by adding housing downtown and making it a 24/7 space for living. The infill in the mixed use area is composed of affordable housing solutions on the second and third floors, with outdoor spaces and flexible space on the first floor that could serve as retail, restaurant, small business office, art studio, or workshop. These spaces allow for the development of the streets and the growth of the community as Lafayette’s downtown evolves into a dynamic cultural and economic center.
“We stimulate economic growth through increased and improved pedestrian circulation, an improved parking scenario, bike access, and parking, and by creating new destinations to encourage pedestrian traffic between downtown and the University. With these improvements, downtown Lafayette can be more than just ‘Where Lafayette Happens.’ Instead, it becomes ‘Where Lafayette Celebrates!'”
(Krystan, Kristin, and Jodi would like to extend a special thanks to the staff of SERA for providing great feedback at a Design Forum on their work here at SERA.)