The Barataria unit of the multi-unit Jean Lafitte National Historical Park encompasses 8,600 acres of hardwood forest, cypress swamp, and freshwater marsh that closely represents the eighteenth-century landscape early settlers found here. The Education Center, a linear structure with a steel-truss frame, an exterior of wood paneling and glass, and a metal roof, is raised on concrete piers above soggy soil that is sometimes inundated by spring floods. The steel-truss frame is both a strong formal and a structural element of the design, piercing the wooden skin at the front to give the effect of a ship’s prow, appropriate imagery for its watery setting. A raised translucent roof panel runs the length of the building, marking the circulation spine and linking the rangers’ offices, study rooms, and screened amphitheater overlooking the swampland. The different textures and colors of the structure’s materials echo the tactile qualities of its swampy and wooded site. The park is named for the notorious Jean Lafitte, who used the bayous, shallow bays, and islands of this region for his smuggling operations in the early nineteenth century.
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Education Center, Barataria Preserve, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
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