Student design projects featured in “a structure for play” exhibit


University of Louisiana at Lafayette alum Casey Orillion is a design director for a large architectural firm in Anaheim, California.

He designs libraries, bridges, courthouses, college campuses – “buildings that impact communities,” he explained. One of his early efforts – a model of visitor’s center pavilion he created as a UL Lafayette student – will be part of the School of Architecture and Design’s “a structure for play” exhibit.

It will run until Tuesday, March 30, in the Dean’s Gallery inside Fletcher Hall. The exhibit will include about 100 models and drawings created by first- and third-year architecture and design students who studied under professor Hector LaSala.

It will also help inform viewers about the School of Architecture and Design’s teaching philosophy. The “heuristic design process” was first adopted by LaSala, said Geoff Gjertson, an architecture professor who directs the University’s Building Institute.

“Hector had a profound influence on the way we teach and continue to teach. It’s a philosophy adhered to throughout the entire school,” Gjertson said.

LaSala taught at the University for 44 years before retiring last year. He was introduced to the teaching method at Virginia Tech, where he was a visiting professor in 1983. It centers on initially emphasizing creativity and exploration over technical and pragmatic considerations.

“There are rules in play, absolutely, but at first you just have to have fun. The creativity is engaged, and then gradually the logic and reason are introduced,” LaSala explained.

LaSala and Gjertson curated the “a structure for play” exhibit, culling pieces from the School of Architecture and Design’s archives. The repository of the best work produced by students over the last four decades was built with the addition of a handful of pieces each semester.

The pieces selected for the exhibit, LaSala said, are intended to convey “the freedom we give our students to be playful before introducing more and more rigor until they complete an amazingly well-crafted project.”

“So, there are going to be final products, but you’re also going to see all the little iterations. By seeing the sequences, people will see how this progression from play to rigor is very gradually and subliminally achieved,” he added.

Orillion, who earned a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies in 2005 and a master’s degree in architecture in 2006, understands the process well. His visitor’s center pavilion, for example, “started off with something abstract that had nothing to do with the finished product,” he said.

LaSala provided a broad assignment to build a structure. Orillion was afforded great leeway in design and material choices. 

As the project progressed, LaSala would often ask Orillion to describe what he was doing, why, and what he ultimately envisioned. “He wanted us to deconstruct the way we think,” Orillion explained.

LaSala would provide sporadic, subtle observations as part of a process that stretched out “for weeks,” Orillion added. “He would say, ‘What if you do this, or what if you add that, or why don’t you do this to reinforce that idea?’ It was a process of discovery.”

The process, Orillion now realizes, prevented him from creating a design based on structures he had seen – or seeking out images for inspiration.

“If I had started with a specific project, there would have been a lack of creativity, a lack of innovation, a lack of vision. I would have relied on what I already knew or looked for ideas,” he said.

Learn more about the “a structure for play” exhibit.

Photo caption: UL Lafayette’s School of Architecture and Design will host the “a structure for play” exhibit until March 30 ,at Fletcher Hall on campus. It will feature the work of first- and third-year architecture and design students who studied under professor Hector LaSala, including the visitor’s center pavilion model shown above. Photo credit: University of Louisiana at Lafayette