Schweiss Doors may not be in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame but two of its hydraulic doors are on it. The utilization of the doors on such an acclaimed project speaks volumes for the reputation of the Fairfax, MN-based manufacturer and its ability to produce doors to match virtually any architectural design.
Natchitoches is Louisiana's oldest settlement and the new Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum are located in the heart of its historic district. Despite that, the museum is decidedly modern. The two-story, $12.6 million building was designed by Trahan Architects of New Orleans. The front of the 28,000 sq. ft. museum is a combination of stucco and copper but its basic form reflects the balconied two-story structures found not only in the historic district, but throughout Louisiana. The remaining three sides of the structure—including the rear—are clad with a copper rainscreen wall system. It is on that rear elevation where the two Schweiss doors were used.
Discussions about the need for a sports museum began in 1950, but it wasn't until 1958 that the Sports Hall of Fame was created. And though athletes were honored annually from that year on, there was no permanent display for the Hall until 1971 when Natchitoches and Northwestern State University embraced the concept. From that year until the completion of the new museum, plaques recognizing Sports Hall of Fame inductees were kept in trophy cases at the university's coliseum. Northwest Louisiana historical artifacts were likewise displayed in dedicated space in an old courthouse.
The new museum—a star in its own right—has proven to be a fitting home to celebrate the achievements of more than 300 legendary Louisiana athletes, coaches and sports figures. In addition to focusing on individuals, the museum includes sports-themed exhibits and interactive media presentations tracing history and importance of sports to life in the state.
Avallone Architectural Specialties of Shreveport, Louisiana was awarded the bid for the two Schweiss one-piece hydraulic doors that facilitate moving displays in and out of the museum. Like the cladding, the doors are skinned with pleated copper panels that control light, views and ventilation. By design, they blend perfectly so that the seam around the doors is the only clue to their existence.
“This is a stand-alone facility. Comparatively speaking the building kind of looks like a space ship on its own island so to speak. The city that it is in and the buildings all around it are all historic; 200 years old,” noted Louis Offutt, a Construction Documents Technologist with Avallone Architectural Specialties.
The Schweiss doors are custom. Each measures 14 ft. 11.5 inches wide x 11 ft. 5/8 inch tall. The clear opening height of the door is 10 ft. 2-1/8 inches. In addition to special sizing, the doors are designed with custom fabricated flat hinge that helps them blend into the wall when closed. The doors are wind rated to 90 mph, exposure B specifications. An emergency battery system was also added to the order in case there would be a power outage in the building.
Offutt said he became familiar with Schweiss doors over a period of many years and has used them in the past.
“The doors have lived up to their expectations. I do think they are well made,” said Offutt. “My experience working with Schweiss Doors was good. It was a tough job for us because of the complexity and uniqueness of the design. We weren’t always happy with the way that it turned out in terms of cost and other factors, but those weren’t related to Schweiss in any way."
The doors are quite impressive," added Hall of Fame Chairman Doug Ireland.
The first floor of the new museum occupies the Hall of Fame. The second floor showcases Louisiana’s sports paradise—a blend of sports history and culture—along with the Northwest Louisiana Regional History Museum. The Hall of Fame collection includes color portraits of the members and a collection of items such as footballs, baseballs, bats, gloves golf clubs, helmets, shoes, jerseys and other memorabilia contributed by Hall of Fame members and their families. Internationally known sportsman Grits Gresham and his wife Mary have a collection showcasing hunting, fishing and the outdoors.
The building opened in 2013 and was named one of the year's top new projects worldwide by Azure Magazine. More recently, the project received a 2015 Honor Award for Interior Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.
“Any metropolis would be proud to have such a powerful building," noted Azure editors in their selection of the project. "What’s great is that this new museum is located in Natchitoches, Louisiana, with a population of just 18,299. Trahan Architects of New Orleans managed to build a stunning landmark while respecting the two-story structures that surround it.”
To see more on this project on the Schweiss Doors website, click here.
Top photo by Tim Hursley, Courtesy of Trahan Architects
Bottom photo by Mark J. Sindler/Louisiana State Museum
All other photos courtesy of the Louisiana State Museum