A pavilion dedicated to the Lafayette community’s response to July’s deadly Grand Theatre shooting is nearing completion — a cause for celebration for those involved in its design.
Nearly 40 students and faculty from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s School of Architecture and Design were at Camellia Boulevard and Mount Vernon Drive on Tuesday to call attention to the soon-to-be-finished Lafayette Strong Pavilion there.
Originally dubbed the Camellia Gridshell, the name was changed to the Lafayette Strong Pavilion in recognition of how the community responded to the theater shooting. The pavilion was originally anticipated to be finished in October, but construction requirements caused delays.
Geoff Gjertson, the UL-Lafayette professor who headed the project, said the pavilion was built as a gridshell, which he described as “a type of structure that uses very thin pieces of wood in a grid at a complex curve” that gives it strength.
“It’s really time consuming because there’s so many little pieces and parts, and it’s almost like building a giant basket upside down,” said Gjertson of the $77,000 pavilion. “There’s a real subtlety with it.”
He said the structure is a fitting tribute to the community’s response n the wake of the theater shooting, noting that building the gridshell involves putting thousands of little pieces together.
“On their own they’re not necessarily that strong, but together, they’re very strong,” Gjertson said.
The pavilion is the first installment of Camellia Art Park, which will span the side of Camellia Boulevard from the Vermilion River to Johnston Street. The second installment will be a 15-foot bronze statue of angels, created by local artist Russel Whiting. The statue will be placed near the entrance of the concrete path that will lead to the gridshell.
This gridshell is one of five such gridshell structures being built as a part of a four-way collaboration between UL-Lafayette, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, The University of Arizona and The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
The project started after the UL-Lafayette School of Architecture and Design received a “Thinking While Doing Partnership” grant 2½ years ago from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Each school is building its own variation of the gridshell, and a fifth gridshell, to be built in Nova Scotia, will be a direct collaborative effort by all four schools, officials said.
The official dedication ceremony of the Lafayette Strong Pavilion will be at noon on Jan. 2.