Over the years, Louisiana has been hit violently by hurricanes. Rains have come; the tides of the Gulf have risen; and towns, homes, and lives have been destroyed. The resilience of the region’s residents is undisputed: people settle, live, experience the detriment of these catastrophic storms, and then pick up the pieces, only to encounter a similar rendition of the same events years later. Again, pieces are picked back up, and homes are rebuilt.
One storm weighed heavily on the minds of several of the state’s stakeholders. Hurricane Audrey hit Cameron, Louisiana in 1957, and took 550 lives as it swept Louisiana’s southwestern tip. As one of the country’s most horrific tropical cyclones, the storm decimated the city.
These stakeholders, united under the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Travel Bureau, wanted to memorialize this tragic event, while also educating people on hurricanes — their impact, legacy, and role in Louisianan life and culture.
Asked to design of the memorial and museum, our team knew the responsibility that this project would bear. It would need to be poetic, communicating loss and remembrance, while also maintaining an ability to teach.
Oak trees had become a symbol of strength in the community. Residents saw the surviving oak trees from the hurricane as pieces of home. The memorial design is centered on these oaks, incorporating over 550 live oaks for each life lost during Audrey.
The museum design is based on water, and the building form of sleek metal curvilinear structures express cresting waves and the irrepressible power of this weather phenomenon. Inside, visitors will virtually experience the impact of these natural forces through interactive exhibits, displays, and accounts of past events that relate both tragedy and triumph.
Inspired by the treacherous storms, and simultaneously built to withstand these same natural beasts, the National Hurricane Museum and Science Center, when completed, will be an emblem of loss, remembrance, and endurance.