Redrawn design of Fletcher Hall keeps old features

Red-bricked buildings dot the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, but a proposal to add brick to the exterior of Fletcher Hall to repair the water-damaged stucco building has been nixed following opposition to the plan.

Following the posting of a preliminary rendering that depicted changed rooflines and a partial red brick exterior, the university received complaints via Facebook and other social media, including an online petition on change.org to “Save Fletcher Hall.”

The complaints prompted the creation of a panel of university architecture students, faculty and alumni to work with Ziler Architects on a final design for the renovation.

The university released a final design Monday that eliminated the red bricks and maintained the building’s monochromatic look and roofline.

“It’s been a good process,” said Jim Ziler, of Ziler Architects and the project designer, Monday. “I think the final product is going to be better received, and there was a lot of interaction between UL, the professors, some of the students and some in the professional field to come to this current design.”

The rendering was not a final design for the project — it was part of “studies for spatial design,” Ziler said.

The building is the home to the university’s College of the Arts programs in visual arts, architecture and design. Designed and constructed more than 40 years ago, it was to feature an atrium, though limited funding scaled the project back to an open-air courtyard that exposed wooden features to the weather and created extensive water damage over the years.

Renovations to repair the damage involve replacing the building’s stucco with metal panels and enclosing open-air areas with glass to maintain the courtyard. Exterior plaza areas will also be enclosed to create usable space.

A plan in December created sloped roofs for the new enclosed plaza areas and red brick for the lower exterior of the building.

“The configuration is basically the same, but the outside appearance, it’s gone back toward one of the initial studies we proposed and had gotten away from,” Ziler said.

About $4 million was allocated from the state’s capital outlay budget to fund the repairs.

Gordon Brooks, dean of the College of the Arts, credited Ziler for designs that fit the university’s limited budget and for his use of input from students, faculty and graduates in the final design.

“It’s really a waterproofing budget,” Brooks said. “We’re getting more bang for our buck since it wasn’t allocated as a construction budget”.

Architecture students Branden Leger and Brant Patout; architecture graduates Kerrie Butts and John Maak; and architecture faculty Hector LaSala and Geoff Gjertson provided input on the final design, as well as local architect Charles Beazley, according to the university news release.

Brooks said Steve Oubre, whose architectural firm, Architects Southwest, is developing the university’s master plan, also provided input.

Architecture graduate Drew Shawver created a petition to “Save Fletcher Hall” on change.org, and as of Monday afternoon gathered nearly 500 signatures in opposition to the design change that involved the red bricks and sloped roofs. Shawver taught in the architecture department for two years prior to leaving last year to relocate to Seattle.

While the existing design is “not perfect,” the building holds a “special place for architecture students,” Shawver said.

“I think the biggest thing that we were concerned about with the proposal was that it seemed to think that everything we thought was special with it was a defect or something,” he said. “The flat roofs were being covered up, the waffle slabs were being covered up. It was trying to conform it to something it wasn’t meant to be.”

Brooks said the idea of the red bricks was tossed around as an idea to tie Fletcher in with the other buildings on the campus.

Brooks added that students and faculty were part of the initial design process — which began years ago. He said the recent interest in the building’s renovations has been encouraging.

“We’ve been here in a leaky building for 40 years as though no one cared, and we found out, you know what — plenty of people cared,” Brooks said.

Last month, the university allocated $500,000 to help pay for a new sprinkler and fire alarm system as part of the repairs. Work is now under way to secure additional funding to help build the new interior additions and for mechanical upgrades.

Construction is scheduled to begin in April.