Perched 35 feet above the Mississippi River, on the site of Baton Rouge’s historical city dock, sits the new headquarters for The Water Institute of the Gulf. Designed by global architecture and design firm Perkins and Will, in collaboration with Baton Rouge-based Coleman Partners Architects, the new building is uniquely designed to adapt to the river’s rapidly fluctuating water levels. Officially named The Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions, the project serves as the centerpiece for the 35-acre Baton Rouge Water Campus, a growing international hub for river and coastal research.
“Perkins and Will’s adaptable design of The Water Institute’s new headquarters truly reflects the purpose of the Water Campus: to use the Mississippi River as a living laboratory for innovation,” said John Davies, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. “The state-of-the-art space will allow the campus to continue to be at the forefront of research discoveries and the development of tools to help our region live in harmony with the surrounding coasts.”
Seasonally, the Mississippi River can rise to shore up to 30 feet, completely submerging the surrounding shoreline. In any given year, there is a significant margin of variation in the level of the river, with the lowest recorded water level being at sea level and the highest at 47 feet above sea level. To accommodate, Perkins and Will designed the building to sit above the maximum anticipated flood line; while the water rises and submerges the surrounding landscape, the building will remain accessible and fully functional.
“The design demonstrates the synergies between structure and nature,” said Ryan Bussard, Design Principal with Perkins and Will. “The elements of the Mississippi River play a central role in the design for this building, just as they are the uniting focus of the research at the Water Campus.”
The building’s all glass and steel aesthetic pays homage to the area’s industrial freight industry, where ocean-going vessels off-load heavy cargo onto barges to be transported upriver or onto rail for inland shipment through Baton Rouge.
The 34,000 square-foot, $25 million-dollar project was developed by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Commercial Properties Realty Trust. The first floor, named Waterworking, has office space as well as a lab that can be rented by researchers, engineering groups, or other organizations. The second floor houses the Water Institute of the Gulf in state-of-the-art office facilities. On the third floor, called The Estuary, is an 8,000 square-foot conference center to host academic conventions, research conferences, and both corporate and private events.