Groundwork Earth Lab

The Small Center team worked with Groundwork New Orleans to design and build an outdoor classroom, entryway, and event space to enhance the Earth Lab’s visibility and functionality for its educational programming.

Project Dates

August 2018–December 2018


Groundwork New Orleans’ primary location on St. Claude Avenue was visually inaccessible due to high fencing, which did not allow the organization to provide a welcoming presence to its neighbors and visitors. The built intervention is intended to open up the site and give a bold visual identity to Groundwork’s programming, allowing the site to more effectively host school and volunteer groups for hands-on field trips and other activities.


Small Center Engagement

The Small Center project team worked with Groundwork to understand its day-to-day use of the site, desired improvements and additions, and organizational aspirations. Undertaking a series of material studies, the team generated a wide range of design options, engaging Groundwork leadership, board members, staff, Green Team and Ground CREW participants to select a final design solution. Including engagement, design, and construction, the team spent approximately 16 weeks in Fall 2018 to complete the project.

The team then constructed a new fence and gateway entrance, collaborated with Groundwork students to build new planter beds, built a new compost area, and reorganized site layout to optimize use of the L-shaped lot. Working with a custom dyed and layered concrete system developed in the first half of the semester, the primary structure forms an “outdoor room” suitable for gatherings large and small.  Paired with a sliding gate, the structure also serves as an entryway, and allows Groundwork to open their site to the surrounding community during special events and educational workshops.

In Spring 2019, new outdoor furniture and educational signage explaining the site’s central bioswale and planting/compost functions were produced to complete the project.


Partner Organization

Groundwork New Orleans engages local residents, businesses and government officials to revitalize neighborhoods and transform community liabilities into community assets. At the core of its programming is Youth Development through job and life skills training, hiring youth and young adults to build and maintain its projects. Since 2006, GWNO has focused on neighborhood-based best management practices, implementing projects that mitigate stormwater threats while improving quality of life, restoring ecosystems, and contributing to a healthier watershed that includes surrounding wetlands and delta estuaries. These projects include installing rain gardens and bioswales, beautifying communities and improving urban drainage infrastructure.


With the new additions to the Earth Lab, Groundwork will be able to hold events in a formalized “outdoor classroom” area. A new fence and colorful gateway provide a welcoming street presence, replacing an opaque fence to allow neighbors and visitors to see the Earth Lab space and understand its purpose. The project reinforces Groundwork’s intent to welcome its partners and the wider community to participate in its educational activities and programming.

To learn more about the project, please see the comprehensive design document here.


Groundwork New Orleans

  • Alicia Neal
  • Joshua Davis
  • Riley Essert
  • Todd Reynolds
  • Ramiro Diaz
  • Green Team
  • Ground CREW

Batture, LLC

  • Jenny Snape, PE

Team Members

Project Leads

  • Adam Modesitt (Design Lead)
  • Nick Jenisch (Project Manager)
  • Sue Mobley (Engagement Advisor)


  • Michelle Barrett
  • Kay Curtis
  • Dana Elliot
  • Jacqueline Esmay
  • Jared Faske
  • Dylan Goldweit-Denton
  • Clayton Hakes
  • Emily Kanner
  • Bryn Koeppel
  • Riley Lacalli
  • Caroline LaFleche
  • Collin Moosbrugger
  • Margaret Swinford
  • Max Warshaw


  • Emilie Taylor-Welty
  • Donn Peabody
  • Ann Yoachim
  • Rashidah Williams


  • Johnson Controls, Inc.
  • CTS Cement Mfg. Corp.