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Dissing the LSHF&NLHM
Written August 6, 2022

I am not an architect.  I really shouldn't be criticizing an award-winning structure — especially one I've never visited, because it's located off the beaten path in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  (That's the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, now a town of 17,711.) 

But I have researched the building, and I do have a problem or two with the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum.

(What about those lengthy appellations?  LSHF&NLHM is certainly a mouthful.  I first heard about it in a Smithsonian Channel documentary about its construction.  And locals pronounce the town's name as merely “Nackitish.”)

The building in question is the white-roofed structure squeezed into half of this trapezoidal lot where Front Street turns into Washington Street, just north of the Natchitoches business district.  Its smaller square neighbor is the 1830 Pioneer Land Office and Bank Building, now operating as the Pioneer Pub.  They both face the Cane River Lake, a hundred yards to the east.

Needing to use every foot of the available land, architect Trey Trahan designed what appears from the outside to be an unimaginative box.  He did give it some surface interest by covering it with horizontal copper strips that allude to the louvers on the verandas of nearby plantations.

In contrast, the interior is a series of twisting passageways inspired by the flowing water of the area's rivers.  The light-colored panels are attached to a steel framework.  Their complex shapes could have been fabricated from lighter materials, but instead they're made out of cast stone slabs several inches thick, the largest weighing nearly five tons.

But these fantastic passageways are virtually empty — except for a few people and one apparently lost car.

It must have wandered in off the street, and the police have set up barriers around it.

Actually, it's a sports artifact on display:  Knot Farrington's modified Ford Thunderbird.  Older Louisianans recall  Knot reaching 241.786 mph in 1963.

By the way, why does a local history museum have to share space with a statewide sports hall of fame?  I suppose there's one advantage:  visiting fans of Shaq and Pete Maravich and Archie Manning might inadvertently learn some history.

On the top floor the exhibits are more numerous, but now look at the ceiling.  Exposed ductwork?  What happened to the flowing white slabs?

In 2014 the Chicago Athenaeum gave the LSHF&NLHM its International Architecture Award.  I give it a B+ for effort.


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