St. Aloysius Catholic Church and School - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
By: Jennifer Walker - Journey
There is a pleasant harmony at St. Aloysius Catholic Church and School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It rings through the administration building, down the hallways of the classrooms, and inside the sanctuary, which sits at the center of the campus. This blending of talents hails from the hearts of three parishioners representing three different architectural firms that worked together through the past decade to grow this community church and school.
“We compete like the dickens in town,” jokes Tommie Cockfield with Cockfield Jackson Architecture. “But we’re all friends, and we’re all parishioners. We work together for the good of the church and school.”
St. Aloysius Catholic Church was founded in the mid-1950s, and shortly thereafter, in 1956, the parish founded the school to serve its children. By the early 1990s, the church had grown to the point that it needed to expand. It turned to Cockfield to design a plan for a new church and school administration building. Cockfield had a vested interest in the outcome of the project – not only was he a parishioner, but his children attended the school.
At that time, the grounds of St. Aloysius contained a church administration building, rectory, convent, two two-story school buildings, one single-story wing, a gymnasium with classrooms, and some temporary buildings.
Cockfield’s five-year master plan included a 15,000-square-foot church at the center of the campus that connected to the existing church building. The new church was completed in 1996, receiving awards from both the local and state entities of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). It was a perfect fit for the parish.
But, as time moved on, the congregation of St. Aloysius began to grow and, as a result, the school’s enrollment increased. A top-notch education facility, St. Aloysius School was soon sought after by individuals outside the parish.
By 2000, the pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade school was nearing 900 students in enrollment, and temporary buildings were, once again, placed on campus for an immediate fix. Developing a second master plan for the school became top priority.
Cockfield was still an active member of the church, but so was another architect, Marvin R. “Buddy” Ragland, Jr., with Coleman Partners Architects. Ragland had a child that would soon attend the school. Unable to choose between the two architects, the building committee decided to hire both.
“It’s a little unusual, a project this size, having more than one architect involved, but it was what the church wanted, and we were fine with that,” Ragland says.
Ragland drew the master plan for the expansion, which included a new one-story building for pre-Kindergarten through second-grade. Adding the new building would free up existing space and allow for the subsequent renovations of the school library, cafeteria, and science and computer labs. Then, the two architects divided up the classroom building portion of the project. Both men would stay involved throughout the project. Ragland’s firm would handle the schematic design and design development; Cockfield’s firm would provide the construction documents and handle the bidding and negotiation phases; Ragland’s firm would oversee the construction administration phase.
In time, the church and school began to reach beyond its boundaries, into the subdivision surrounding it. Adjacent property was acquired, and homes were used for daycare or meeting space. The football field was relocated, and a new playground area was built.
Within five years, Ragland’s master plan was built out, and the church began to focus on other needs, calling on yet another architect and fellow parishioner, Henry Carville of Bani, Carville & Brown Architects. Carville expanded the cafeteria and built a new gymnasium. Carville looked at renovating some of the older buildings on campus, many of which had been around since the church’s founding in the 1950s.
Today, more than 1,100 children are enrolled in the pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade school. Renovations continue, but the school will expand no more, says John Bennett, the school’s principal.
“The master plans have evolved, as they should, and we have finally come to a conclusion,” he says.
Still a much-sought-after school, it can now accommodate the children of its parishioners, Bennett says, which is its primary responsibility.
Cockfield Jackson Architecture, located in Baton Rouge, is a team of architecture, interior design and planning professionals that works to achieve balanced design solutions through practical thought and dynamic creativity, www.cjarchitects.com.
Coleman Partners Architects is a full-service architecture and interior design firm with its main offices in Baton Rouge and a second office in Houston, Texas, www.cparch.com.
Bani, Carville & Brown Architects, based in Baton Rouge, provides comprehensive architectural services to private, commercial, and institutional clients, www.bcbaia.com.
School: St. Aloysius Catholic Church and School
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Student Body: 1,130 students
Grades Serves: Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade
Project Goal: Expand campus to accommodate the children of the growing parish
Architects: Cockfield Jackson Architecture; Coleman Partners Architects; and Bani, Carville & Brown Architects
Challenge: With so many worthy architects in its congregation, how could a church/school decide which to hire for a project?
Solution: Hire these rival architects - and friends – from the parish and ask them to work together over the years for the good of the church and school.