LSU Architecture Team Wins Best in Show at Design Charette for a Community Arts Center in Hattiesburg


A team of five third-year LSU School of Architecture students, led by Professional in Residence William Doran, recently won best in show at a design charette hosted by the Hattiesburg Arts Council.

Representatives of the Hattiesburg Arts Council invited three student teams from regional universities—Louisiana State University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the University of Southern Mississippi—to propose designs for a new Community Arts Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The project focused on the rehabilitation of the former Hattiesburg American newspaper building recently donated to the Arts Council.

The teams spent two days, April 8–9, in Hattiesburg, the first day touring downtown Hattiesburg and the surrounding area. Each team received design proposal guidelines for the renovation of the Hattiesburg American building located on Main Street. On Saturday, April 9, the Arts Council hosted a one-day charette, an intense, collaborative design session in which the team members worked to solidify their design ideas. The students presented their designs to the public, and a jury of local architects and designers selected winning proposals, awarding best in show to the LSU team. The participating LSU students included Giovanni Coakley of the Bahamas; Sarah Eikrem of New Orleans, Louisiana; Christopher James of Clearwater, Florida; Zach McLain of Covington, Louisiana; and Amanda Verastegui of San Antonio, Texas.

All three proposals were on view at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center during the Spring Art Walk on Saturday evening.

The Hattiesburg American covered the design charette in an article, “Architecture students lend ideas to Arts Council,” in which Christopher James, third-year LSU architecture student, was quoted as saying: “I think this is a unique opportunity, in a fast-paced design environment, to be involved in the community and community scale work . . . It gives us the chance to adapt it for use of a project where it’s taking existing infrastructures and repurposing them to help benefit the community, so it’s interesting work that I want to be a part of.”

According to the Hattiesburg American, if everything goes to plan, the Community Arts Center, when completed, will feature an art gallery and gift shop, community garden and food pantry, classrooms, a business incubator, a theater, and more.

“I had a great time engaging in a community-driven design project, especially in an environment I wasn’t familiar with,” said Sarah Eikrem, third-year LSU undergraduate architecture student. “Learning what people wanted and responding to their town and their culture was really exciting and very hands-on! Most projects we do in school have a little distance from the community, so having local people give input, review, and vote on the designs was really interesting.”