Maziar Behrooz '85 wins an AIA Peconic award for The Illumination Center
New Orleans, LA
Illumination Centers (IC) are a project of the Youth Rescue Initiative (YRI), the New Orleans Public Library Foundation (NOPLF), and the New Orleans Public Library System (NOPLS).
The goal of the Illumination Center Project is to bridge the digital divide that prevents many in low income neighborhoods from taking full advantage of the offerings of modern technology and to provide structured educational programming through the NOPLS.
Each center will have one to two recycled shipping containers that are retrofitted with computer work stations and networked to the New Orleans Public Library. Library staff will monitor each center and guide students to use various educational software for resume building, job search, homework assistance and general research. Conceived as the first in a series, the learning lab will offer a safe zone for school-aged children (ages 12-17) and members of the surrounding community to access the internet and learn how to navigate and utilize other digital media.
The sites that the centers occupy are urban, small and residential with nearby access to bus stations, libraries and schools. Each center will have an overhead canopy, derived from the floral patterns of French Quarter balcony grills. Eventually these will be covered with native New Orleans flora and fauna and create a shaded outdoor space for use by neighborhood residents as well as students.
One of our design objectives was to explore extreme cost effectiveness, which determined the use of shipping containers. Our challenge was to ensure that the space within each would be pleasurable and accommodating.
The curving of the corners was a means to remove the perception of boundary and thus create a sense of spaciousness within a small space. The end walls of the containers are completely removed and replaced with operable doors and windows. The resultant view through will allow outdoor space to be brought into the experience within and provide for a more fluid interaction between the activities inside and outside.
The YRI’s goal is for the pilot Illumination Center to be the first in a series of many that will serve various communities in the City of New Orleans.
Upon the completion of construction and landscaping, the project will be handed over from the YRI to the NOPL and the lab will become an extension of the library system. As a part of the city-wide library system the lab will be linked to a dynamic array of software packages and access to databases from homework help to résumé development and interview coaching. To further provide a well-rounded program, NOPL plans to partner with local universities, including Tulane University and the University of Loyola New Orleans to provide after-school tutoring and programmatic support.
The goals of our partnership group are aligned with the City’s objective of improving the future of New Orleans’ "Next Economy." Our collective vision is achievable through the type of innovative and collaborative approach represented in the Illumination Center.