St. Michael Special School, New Orleans
CATEGORY: Renovations and Additions
This school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities had been operating from its disjointed campus of several disparate buildings in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans since 1965. The school was desperately in need of additional classroom space, a dignified worship space, a more cohesive sense of place, and a better connection to the surrounding community.
The new chapel, the restoration of the Convent building, and the redesigned school entrance have established a new prominence for the school. Previously fenced off and protected from its once-blighted surroundings, the school is now visually and physically connected to its community, proudly proclaiming its presence as an anchor of this now vibrant neighborhood.
At the heart of the contemporary addition is the school chapel. The chapel is a large double height space with exposed steel columns and scissor trusses. The space is flanked by large louvered clerestory windows that provide filtered light into the space.
The focal point of the space is the sanctuary, with custom designed wood furnishings and a large wooden cross beyond. The cross is set in a custom fritted glass curtainwall that delicately diffuses light and pulls the eye skyward. Restrained in materials and details, the chapel space—adorned with glass art pieces designed and produced by the students of the school’s art department—provides a peaceful, contemplative environment for the celebration of Mass.
The restored and renovated buildings are now an anchor for the school campus and help reconnect the school to its Lower Garden District neighborhood.