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2014 MCHAP.emerge

Dillard University International Center for Economic Freedom

Davis Brody Bond

New Orleans, LA, USA



Davis Brody Bond


Musso Troyer Architects (Consulting Architect) Carl E. Woodward LLC (Construction Manager) Julien Engineering and Consultants (Structural Engineering) Associated Design Group Inc. (MEP Engineering) Linfield Hunter and Junius, Inc. (Civil Engineering) Terra Designs, Inc. (Landscape Architect) NBTA Engineers (Data/Telecom/AV Consultant) Construction Specifications Inc. (Specifications Consultant) Rodgers Construction Consultants (Cost Estimator)


Keith McKendall, Assistant Vice President - Facilities Management


Neil Alexander Photography LLC


The building serves the University’s programs in the humanities and social sciences, and offered the opportunity to revisit teaching and study spaces for student learning, especially the provision of gathering space for student interaction and informal learning activity which was absent in other campus buildings, many of which were also self-contained and visually inaccessible. The interior planning and exterior expression of the DUICEF building creates a welcoming and comfortable environment for students, and the new classrooms and labs foster a range of interactive teaching formats. The building’s entry leads to a two-story open lobby which provides a central hub linking ground floor classrooms with faculty offices, seminar rooms, a computer lab and a conference center on the floor above. The lobby also includes a major art installation commissioned for the space. The ground floor classrooms open off a large informal study lounge that is a place for informal learning activity. The architectural goal of creating a modern complement to the campus’ legacy of neo-classical buildings was achieved with the use of the traditional white painted brick as well as the large portico which refers back to the tradition of shaded entry porches on the traditional campus buildings. The portico also provides a sheltered outdoor space in a hot and rainy climate. The building responds to specific environmental concerns through the use of roof overhangs, recessed windows and exterior sun shading devices on the west façade.


Founded in New Orleans in 1869, Dillard University is a historically black university providing educational opportunities to a traditionally disadvantaged student population. At the time of its construction, the DUICEF building (Dillard University International Center for Economic Freedom) was a major addition to a campus which had not experienced significant recent construction. The 28,500 gsf facility was built for a modest $5.5 million because the school’s space and financial resources were limited, with design and construction completed in 26 months. The Dillard campus is a local architectural landmark dating back to the 1930s and consists of a core of classically-inspired white brick buildings arranged symmetrically among extensive plantings of oak trees. The selected site for the new building was at one edge of the historic core, adjacent to the levee of the London Avenue Canal. The building’s linear form is derived from the narrowness of the site which also serves to create a new campus quadrangle. The DUICEF screens the previously prominent levee wall and responds to important campus circulation paths. The architect was selected in a limited competition. The choice of a modern architectural aesthetic was a major departure for the school. Both the administration and board were open to a modern aesthetic with the understanding that the building would be sympathetic in terms of its scale, siting and materials.


In subsequent discussions with the University, we have learned that students use the building as was intended, and it is a popular gathering space that supports congregation and interaction before and after class. The lounge area functions as a kind of “Starbucks” for the University community. The DUICEF building also serves as an important venue for a range of public and internal school events, and is regularly used for Board Meetings, community meetings, and alumni events. The “smart” classrooms and teaching venues are highly sought after as some of the best teaching spaces on campus. In 2005, approximately a year after completion, Dillard experienced a devastating flood as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Though the building had been designed to meet prevailing requirements established for the flood zone, the collapse of nearby levees resulted in five feet of standing water in the building. The major building components survived and there were no failures to the building’s curtain wall and brick envelope. The University was subsequently able to repair and bring the building back on-line as one of its early recovery projects. As a result the building served as a major resource for the school during the rebuilding process while other space was limited. The regard and commitment of the University to the success of the original design is evidenced in the complete restoration and replacement of all the original finishes and spaces to their pre-Katrina condition.

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