Although no official word has been released on whether UL Lafayette will acquire the former Our Lady of Lourdes hospital property on St. Mary Boulevard, a second-year studio class for architecture students is conceptualizing the property as a study in spatial design.

The course, led by professors Corey Saft and Dan Burkett, has students coordinating to design individual pieces of hypothetical academic, residential and commercial structures that will be joined together at the end of the course to create a room-sized model.

“It’s a strategy of landscape intensification as opposed to just making a building,” explained Saft. “The goal is that it’s much more like an ecology. It’s more like a natural environment, so you have the spatial richness, as opposed to a hermetically sealed building.”

The models start out with a cardboard base and are built up in pieces using more cardboard, a material called Homasote — a fibrous board made of recycled newspaper — and wood sticks, which have begun forming the structure of the buildings. The materials are to represent cost-effective building materials — concrete, for example — that are easily acquired and manipulated.

“This is stuff that has both a high-design quality and an everyday quality,” explained Saft, “and that’s an important balance.”

The models are being designed as if all currently existing buildings of the Lourdes complex were dismantled but for the parking garages. A continuous walkway would aim to pull pedestrians across the existing coulee and through the structures, with green space alongside.

Thomas Mouton, 27, a sophomore architecture student from Carencro, is building a model that represents a structure that sits along the coulee and opposite a green space. A corridor runs the length of his model through three others taking shape next to his workspace.

“We want it to be inviting and pull people in, so that when you’re coming from school,” Mouton explained, “that view will pull you all the way through the building.”

Saft said by building these structures in pieces, it allows the students to envision them not as objects, but as a system, which creates a more exploratory space. They are to imagine the areas from the ground up, with a focus on outdoor space.

“We’re trying to keep them from thinking about how the thing looks,” he explained. “They’re acting ahead of their education in an intuitive way. It’s design, not engineering, so they can make for a really experiential place.”

Last year, students in the course re-envisioned a vacant lot downtown near the railroad tracks. By making the projects locally relevant, Saft said, it makes their work more relatable once construction is eventually underway.

“They really intimately thought about it, so it becomes a learning experience for them,” said Saft. “Whatever is built there (at the Lourdes property), over the next few years, these students will be able to see the progress and think about their own designs.”