Louisiana Children's Museum

Honor Award 2020

The beloved Louisiana Children’s Museum was housed for 30 years in the Warehouse District of New Orleans before expanding to a stunning new 8.5-acre site in City Park. Studio Matthews’ part of the project encompassed the design of a new brand as well as signage, interpretation, environmental graphics, and donor recognition throughout the new indoor/outdoor site.

The visitor experience planning team applied an unorthodox approach when developing the museum’s master plan, using a Reggio Emilia-inspired process to engage very young children in the master plan. The designers embraced this approach for the brand, wayfinding, and interpretation design, incorporating authentic children’s drawings—created at the Museum—in the new identity and all throughout the new site. (Each drawing is credited to the budding child artist.) 

When the team first toured the original museum, they visited their creative workshop space for kids and were energized by the incredible art, drawing, and sculpture on the walls. From the museum staff, they learned how important it is for kids’ learning and self-esteem to not just provide them with opportunities to draw, paint, and create, but also to display that work and really celebrate it. 

Throughout three years of work on this project, the team collaborated closely with the museum to create an environment that inspires both children and adults. One of their favorite pieces is the installation of quotes from grandparents describing their hopes and dreams for the children of New Orleans. Even better was learning from the staff that many kids now ask for photos of the wall, as they like what they read and want to remember the words.

The Museum as a whole has been incredibly successful, going from strength to strength from its opening on Labor Day Weekend 2019; membership has quadrupled and, in the first 100 days alone, the Museum welcomed 60,000 guests from 44 different states. It has become a "Third Place" in New Orleans as many families come several times a week.

"Lots of vocabulary words are being used to describe this place,” says the Museum Director, “but there are two that surface with regularity: magic and inspiring.”

Jury Comments: 

“The design speaks to multiple audiences in such a fun yet refined manner. Playfully tasteful. Love it—everything about it!”

“Using a splash of color and children’s drawings on a white backdrop, a very simple but welcoming environment is created to inspire leaning and creativity.”

“Talk about knowing your audience! That aspects of this organization’s identity were actually comprised of children’s artwork was a true “aha” moment, and no doubt very relatable to the real guests of honor here. That said, there are also sophisticated elements that not only avoid alienating the adults in the room but also stand out as superior design.”

Design Firms: 

Studio Matthews

Client: 

Louisiana Children's Museum

Project Area: 

370,260 sq ft

Open Date: 

August 2019

Photo Credits: 

Studio Matthews

Design Team: 

Kristine Matthews (principal design), Cassie Kingler (project lead design, Phase 1; photography), Nicole Fischetti (project lead design, Phase 2), Jami Halse (project management, Phase 1), Amy McHorse (project management, Phase 2), Sara Essex Bradley (photography)

Fabricators: 

Solomon Group

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