New Orleans, LA
Planning for The Commons began in 2015. Among Tulane’s main goals for the facility were to offer a New Orleans-worthy dining experience via open kitchens, to maximize capacity and seating to serve the school’s growing population and to boost platform versatility to carry The Commons into the future. Hurricane readiness too was a priority.
Concept ideas started with food, naturally. “We went for the low-hanging fruit for a food city like New Orleans,” says James Davella, FCSI, president of New York-based foodservice consulting firm Davella Studios. “Red beans and rice, fried chicken and gumbo. Then we challenged the clients with new areas—allergen-free, vegan, chef showcase and various cooking styles. All this was a huge departure from Tulane’s decades-old existing food hall, Bruff Commons.”
As for space and capacity, “initial building plans called for four floors,” Davella says. “This was compressed to three floors in a move to better build community. Our challenge was how to fit 1,000 seats into a space that was expected to serve up to 4,500 meals per day, without expanding to a three-floor foodservice operation.”
Disaster planning factored into the broader building design. “Every decision was informed by how it played into hurricane readiness,” Davella recalls. As a result, The Commons exceeds FEMA guidelines with its main floor some 14 ft. above sea level.
“It’s almost as if the building is on a pedestal, standing higher than surrounding buildings,” Davella says. The foundation rests on pylons that reach down to the bedrock. And most of all, a massive generator fueled by natural gas can power the building.
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