Frederick A. Douglass Senior High School Auditorium

Use: Education
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 15,078 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

The Frederick Douglass High School auditorium isn’t just anarea for student performance; it’s an important civic space for the Bywater neighborhood. Since 2005, the auditorium has been closed due to damage from Hurricane Katrina; its grand Art Deco-inspired assemblyleft only for the use of storage. To help the school system return this invaluable resource to the community, NANO devised a strategy for making the auditorium more accessible, more accommodating, and more authentic than it has been for decades. 

In addition to overseeing the sensitive repairs of the hurricane-caused damage, we are working with local artisans and restoration specialists to preserve the feeling of the 1940s auditorium – cleaning and repainting its original deco-patterned acoustic tile ceiling and restoring all the original light fixtures and wooden chairs. And to ensure visitors are comfortable in the restored auditorium, we integrated a new air conditioning system into the building’s structure. The unobtrusive new system features custom high-flow grills artfully set into the existing ceiling grid, and ducts installed between the trusses concealed above. Visitors won’t see the changes, but on a sweltering New Orleans day, they’ll definitely feel the difference. 

While retaining the historic character of the 1940s building, NANO also improved accessibility throughout the building to ensure it could serve the entire community. With great care and thoughtfulness to the existing space, we incorporated a wheelchair lift into the stage, removed seating to create wider aisles, and added more visitor seating. We also integrated a more accessible production control platform to the theater’s main floor. Outside, working with the HDLC, we added a new exterior ramp that complements the building’s design and its recently updated courtyard.

NANO also prepared an alternate theater package for the school that will let them move forward with a complete revamp of the lighting and sound systems as soon as they have the resources. The new Frederick Douglass High School auditorium will help the New Orleans charter school system continue its mission to build students’ character and prepare them for the future of their choice.