Don J. O'Rourke & Associates, Ltd.
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Kaplan City Court

Kaplan, Louisiana

Kaplan City Court, originally Designed by Favrot, Reed, Mathes & Bergman and constructed by Fred J. Nehrbass in the 1950’s for African-American students before integration, the “Colored School” of Kaplan was abandonded & severely neglected. Instead of demolishing this derilect building, The City of Kaplan elected to convert it into their New City Court Building upon its acquisition by the City Government.

The architecture’s rhythmic patterns of windows and structure with clean lines expresses Modernism as it should be. The firm was tasked with redesigning and re-orienting the entrance, removing the kitchen, and re-purposing the interior to meet the needs of a city court. The old cafetorium was converted to the courtroom with only minimal changes. The kitchen posts, beams, and roof were left and seating added to serve as porch space. Throughout the building, exposed wood structure with tongue and groove decking, concrete block walls, and exterior walls of glass were untouched. For ease of maintenance, a retrofitted low-slope metal roof was installed but at a low enough slope to aesthetically align with the previous flat roof. Near the new front entrance, the transponder tower originally used by the Vermilion Parish School Board to transmit information prior to modern correspondence remains.

The new entrance foyer is the historical “Cube” which holds signifiers honoring the city’s past. Plaques reference the history of the building and pictures of “old” Kaplan are along the walls. The City Seal is inlaid into the flooring in the center of the space. A plaque commemorating Mr. Wilkins Stroud for whom the building owes its name is directly across the only fenestration in the space, and is perpetually lit.

Homage to the mid-century modernist style was inherent in respecting the history of the architecture, and the scars of demolition were left on the building as a memory of it’s past.