City of Kaplan

Kaplan City Court

Kaplan, Louisiana

The City of Kaplan elected to separate the facility in lieu of“all-in-one” because of the acquisition of the school building for Phase 2 of the Kaplan Safety Complex.  By acquiringthe derelict and partially abandoned “Colored School” as a location for the New City Court Building, the City was able to utilize an existing facility that would have otherwise fallen into complete disrepair and become another abandoned government building, a blight on the community. So, we were tasked with reconfiguring this school into a working City Court.

Designed and constructed in the 1950’s for African-American students before integration, the rhythmic pattern of windows and structure with clean vertical and horizontal lines expressed Modernism as it should be. We were tasked with adding, and relocating, the entrance, removing all aspects of the school kitchen, and repurposing the interior to meet the needs of city court. The exposed wood structure with tongue and groove decking, concrete block walls, and exterior walls of glass did present obstacles, but also opportunity to build upon this classic design.

We removed all non-load bearing interior walls, the kitchen, and cut some openings for doors. We added a retrofitted metal roof at the insistence of the Owner to cut down on maintenance costs in the future, but we kept the integrity of the built-up flatroof as added protection for the interior. It was always our intent to “leavethe scars of demolition” on the building as a visual metaphor that a building of justice had arisen from the mangled roots of a building that served the injustice of segregation.

We created an entrance foyer that serves as the historical “Cube” which holds plaques of the history of the building, pictures of historical Kaplan, the City Seal water-jet cut into the flooring in the center of the space, and a commemorative plaque to Mr. Wilkins Stroud of whom this building maintains his namesake. His influence on this community was so that we framed this plaque with a window and provided aperpetual light so that it could be seen from the exterior at the front entrance both day and night.

We paid homage to the modern design. We made sure that the history of this building (it’s past use; wherewalls were; where the kitchen service window was) would be seen even after the renovations were complete. We were adamant that the previous building be incorporated into the new foyer without change. We designed around the locationof the commemorative plaque to Mr. Stroud. We were honored that we were chosen to design a significant reuse for this building so that would continue to serve the citizens of the City of Kaplan.

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