The Year's Best Architecture
6 projects worth examining
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LSUHSC John P. Isché Library Commons
The smallest project this year and the only adaptive reuse rather than new construction, this project is a hidden gem.
Located within the anonymous buildings of the downtown LSU medical complex, the Library Commons is an oasis of warmth and high quality contemporary design. Programmatically, it provides a 24- hour cafe, study space and lounge. There are also two multimedia rooms and a linear gallery, exhibiting historic medical artifacts of the institution that are on display for the first time.
Replacing a generic library area, the new spaces are animated and well-defined by differences in lighting, ceiling treatment and materials. Lowered areas of ceiling, some amoeba shaped, are floating elements that bring down the scale and delineate each space. They are also demarked by a series of screens that are giant images of cellular conditions, heart muscle cells, fat cells and neurons, perhaps to keep the medical students on their toes.
Studio WTA; Wayne Troyer, principal; Julie Kaminski, project designer/manager; Nancy Stewart, interior designer; Kenyon Zimmerman, Jessica Tippens, William Soniat, Sadi Brewton
St. Bernard Parish Fire Station #2
Here is a building that arises directly from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Following the disaster, St. Bernard Parish requires 10 new fire stations; and this is the first. In fact, according to architect Nick Marshall, it’s the first post-Katrina fire station to be completed in the entire region. It required a great deal of negotiation and documentation because of the stringent criteria for FEMA reimbursement.
The station sets a strong precedent. The massing is clear, demarking the first level as the apparatus zone and the upper floor as housing for the firefighters. Yet, there’s also some liveliness here. Unlike the former building, the lower level is twisted on the small site to allow convenient movement for the larger new fire trucks. The upper level is boldly cantilevered toward Judge Perez Drive, creating a sculptural mass and creating some ground level shade in front of the building. The material palette is industrial and hosable, except for a wooden portion of the exterior wall denoting the entry to the second floor residential quarters. As the architects point out, they’ve been able to design the stations “as primary objects that are seen by the community as symbols of protection and recovery.”
Chase Design Group, architects; John “Jay” Chase, principal-in-charge; Nick Marshall, design director; Anna Thomassie, Sam Rue Stuart Consulting Group, managing A/E firm; Frank Stuart, principal-in-charge
The Marquis Apartments
This project stands out among the several recently completed apartment buildings in proximity to Tulane Avenue.
The Marquis Apartments establish a substantial urban front facing upper Poydras Street. Reaching five stories in height, it has a wide range of unit types. Its distinctiveness arises from several positive architectural decisions: The 250 units are clearly organized in three U-shaped buildings, creating courtyards as well as street frontage; the roof profile of the complex is enlivened with pitched roof profiles and galvanized steel strut supports for roof canopies provide a contemporary note; the third design decision that characterizes the project is the sensitive orchestration of multiple exterior elements – including a balcony for each unit – that utilize a well-chosen palette of materials. There are planned offsets that provide visual interest to the large wall areas. Only on the ground floor is the articulation less than desirable, where a stronger palette may have been lost due to “value-engineering” by the developer.
The central building houses the complex’s amenities, including a generous pool and barbecue area; inside are community facilities. With the adjacent Falstaff redevelopment, this building is producing an increased residential density in an area formerly more industrial in character. This has proven popular with the public: Although the complex has only recently opened, it’s virtually completely leased.
Sizeler Thomas Brown Architects
Brian Faucheux, principal-in-charge; Crystal Mitchell, project architect; Toomas Soosaar, Daren Sadowsky, Mike Landry, Jeff Greer, Jean Kelly, Charles Neyrey; WDG Architecture; Dallas, TX; Vincent M. Hunter, principal
John P. Klingman is a register architect and a Favrot Professor of Architecture at Tulane University. His fall semester studio’s work is accessible at www.dutchdialogues.com.