Playful in the Park
The Louisiana Children’s Museum’s office space is designed to inspire the staff and the people they serve
We are counting down to reopening the museum Memorial Day weekend.
Julia Bland, CEO of the Louisiana Children’s Museum
When the Louisiana Children’s Museum opened its new state-of-the-art, LEED Gold-rated building in City Park in 2019, there was no way of knowing that six months later the COVID-19 pandemic would force the staff to shut its doors. Nonetheless, the museum staff has been behind the scenes ever since in its daylight-infused, modern, open-plan office space — designed by Mithun in Seattle and furnished by New Orleans-based AOS Interior Environments — preparing in great anticipation to fling the doors once again open and working to rebuild the staff and programming.
“We are counting down to reopening the museum Memorial Day weekend,” said Louisiana Children’s Museum CEO Julia Bland, who shares that the museum has at least been utilized by one group throughout the pandemic. “We made an agreement with a nearby charter school that their pre-K and [kindergarten] students could use the museum as their school site this year, so we are hosting 120 students all day each day. The kids are from Langston Hughes Academy. Soon we will be reopening and will welcome families and the general public again.”
The design team was charged with considering the needs of not only the museum staff, but also the wide variety of people the museum works with and serves, in creating a space that marries form, function and, at the heart of it all, sustainability amid the beauty of City Park’s surrounding landscape.
“Our staff works with various stakeholders of a young child’s ecosystem — the children themselves, parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, community partners, donors, members and more,” said Bland. “It is basically a big jigsaw puzzle of joy and learning and beauty – we are so lucky!”
The space has an angled roof that is exposed in the interior, which Bland said challenged the design team to create furniture that not only met the staff’s needs for day-to-day work and functions, but also made visual sense within the context of the overall design of the museum. She cited myriad aspects of the sustainable design, as the standout features of the space.
“There are many standards associated with that admirable [LEED Gold] classification,” Bland said. “Incredible daylighting with large windows look out to the park’s glorious views, while large overhangs allow us to enjoy the park and not feel any exterior heat. The lighting is triggered by occupancy, which provides tremendous savings on our utility bill. An open office space and a variety of meeting rooms and workspaces offer flexibility, and the carpet was made of recycled fishnets. Plus, I believe I have the most fabulous office in the city!”
Views of the park — including pods of pelicans putting on regular “air shows” — and the sounds of children’s voices contribute to the positive working atmosphere at the museum, Bland said.
“I am so anxious to get back in the rhythm of a full operation again and play an important role in helping families recover from the many losses and traumas of the past year,” she said. “We hope to see big doses of childhood joy expressed by the children who come here, and [hear]a big sigh of relief from the parents so needing the respite. We can’t wait!”
At a Glance
15 Henry Thomas Drive in City Park
Person in Charge
Julia W. Bland, CEO
Mithun (Seattle), Rich Franko
Mithun (Annie Rummelhoff) and AOS (Stephanie Ricord)
Furnishings and art
Furnishings by AOS (including pieces by Andreu World, Emeco, Davis, Hightower, Flor, Heartwork, Bernhardt Design, Knoll). Artwork in the offices includes select pieces from the 1984 World’s Fair Wonder Wall brought from the Julia Street museum; Spacestor seating cabinetry combination as a room divide custom made and inspired by the museum’s “kindows”; Terrance Osborne giclee in open office space; staff breakroom and volunteer room have Basquiat-inspired art done by local children in the museum’s art studio; employee open workspace has a coffee table made from Mitchell Gaudet’s cauldron that the glass beads were made in (glass top shows some beads inside; Alex Beard painting “Tree of Life”; the logo room (or phone room) is filled with art and a birthday chair from the original museum.