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Best of Design

our annual survey of new architecture

John P. Klingman is a registered architect and a Favrot Professor of Architecture at Tulane University. His book, New in New Orleans Architecture, is available at local bookstores.

JEFFERY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPH

This year’s projects reflect a particularly broad group of building types, including several with unique programs. While an interesting set of uses doesn’t necessarily equate with good design, it’s exciting to see a conjunction of both.

 

Joan Mitchell Center Studio Building

Lee Ledbetter Architects; Lee Ledbetter, principal-in-charge; Tarra Cotterman, project architect; Will Soniat, Will Rosenthal,
Peter Kilgust

This building provides commodious individual studio space for ten artists who are accepted for residencies. It is part of a campus that includes a prominent historic house facing Bayou Road, a meeting hall and residences for the artists. The New York-based foundation supports artists and became interested in a New Orleans facility as an outgrowth of their post-Katrina assistance to artists here.
Although the building is substantial, the feeling of a garden oasis within the city is maintained and enhanced by its understated presence. Adjacent to the entrance is a sculpted bioswale and retention pond spanned by a bridge. The swale is activated during rainstorms when water from the roof is channeled here. The architects successfully related the scale of the building to the surrounding residential structures. This arises in part from the articulated roofscape, with each studio marked by a north-facing clerestory monitor.

The interior is a combination of inwardly focused studios and a circulation system that engages the exterior in a multiplicity of ways. A no-nonsense building, there are concrete floors in the corridors with plywood in the studios. The studios vary in size, but each has outstanding daylight. In addition to the light monitor, there’s a south-facing adjustable skylight and a vertical view window. Observing the artifacts in studios at the conclusion of residency, it’s clear that the building fosters energetic explorations.


Greater New Orleans Foundation Center for Philanthropy

Waggonner and Ball Architecture/Environments; Mac Ball, principal-in-charge; David Waggonner, consulting principal; Steve Scollo, project architect; David Curtis, Charles Sterkx, Kenner Carmody, Dennis Horshoff, Jerry Blanchard, David Demsey

A handsome building has arisen on Lee Circle, the first significant structure constructed on the historic circle in decades.  For almost 35 years, the Greater New Orleans Foundation has been a leading philanthropic organization in our region. Now they’re occupying a building with a civic presence commensurate with GNOF’s stature.

The primary façade reflects the arc of Lee Circle, and it skillfully incorporates several elements to create a dynamic response to the context. A colonnade extends to the full three story height of the building. On the first level a loggia provides cover for the generous ramped main entrance; on the top floor, another loggia provides exceptional views overlooking the circle. Although the building interior area is rather modest, the architects expanded its scale with covered outdoor spaces and the enlarged height of the third floor. The proportions of the cast stone piers vary from floor to floor, providing visual interest; the variations reflect subtle adjustments related to the shaft in the circle.

Beyond the culmination of the colonnade in the double-height entrance lobby, on Howard Avenue the building’s exterior treatment changes. The handsome local St. Joe brick is maintained, but there’s a sunshaded curtain wall and board-formed concrete. Unusual on the outside, this material appears extensively in the building’s interior, including the lobby and main stair where it contrasts with smoother surfaces of stone and glass. The interior has excellent daylight in the staff spaces and the commodious meeting rooms on the river side. This results in part from the downtown-facing curtainwall whose north orientation allowed for extensive glazing. Providing a panoramic view of the skyline, it also allows views of the extensive landscaped terrace just outside the building. The terrace contains extensive subsurface stormwater catchment, an important theme of Waggonner and Ball’s ongoing work in urban water management.

The clear internal organization of the building, fine spaces and handsome, durable materials demonstrate that the thoughtfulness of design extends throughout the project. An extensive collection of local art in the building further reflects the empathy of GNOF with its surroundings.


Residence With Style

The Egrets

There is a series of affordable contemporary houses popping up on vacant lots in Gentilly. Compact and commodious, they’re developed by Home by Hand, a local nonprofit. This design successfully meets the challenge of a building raised up to eight feet that still relates to the street. This occurs through a wide set of stairs leading to an intermediate covered deck.

Colectivo; Tom Holloman, Seth Welty, architects; Sarah Saterlee


Tulane University Howard Tilton Library Addition

Eskew+Dumez+Ripple; Charles Hite, principal-in-charge; R. Allen Eskew, Steve Dumez, consulting principals, Jason Richards, project manager; Christian Rodriguez, project architect; Aseem Deshpande, Wendy Kerrigan, Z Smith, Lynn Ostenson, Andy Redmon

The 1960s-era Howard Tilton Library has a new hat, but it’s more than that. A gleaming metal exterior cladding holds two stories of expansion for the library’s program and support spaces. This project is an artifact of Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out the building’s major mechanical and electrical equipment when its basement flooded. After lengthy negotiations FEMA provided funding to relocate the equipment; the university also had the opportunity to replace stack, reading and study areas and staff space.

Although the exterior treatment juxtaposes new and old, the interior speaks of continuity but with a few twists. The most important of these is a double height reading lounge on the new fifth floor. Tucked away in the downriver lake-facing corner of the building, it’s a contemplative space with great views of the city skyline. Playfulness of the suspended lighting fixtures adds an element of liveliness. Elsewhere, circular ceiling fixtures of various sizes provide a similar sense of whimsy.

Along with the addition, the library was outfitted with a new sprinkler system, a completely rebuilt and upgraded elevator system and energy enhancements to the efficiency of the environmental systems. More than 700,000 books and recordings and nearly 1.5 million individual pieces of microform were submerged in the library during the flooding following Katrina. The recovery and remediation of those pieces, along with another 700,00-plus manuscript folders and archival items, were part of the overall library recovery that the addition helped to complete. The addition also will help to mitigate any future damage from a storm. Additional information on Tulane University Howard Tilton Library Addition by Morgan Packard.


Residence With Style

Fairgrounds House

This contemporary house is a variation of the traditional camelback. It was designed for Carey Shea and her husband Calvin Parker; she’s Executive Director of Home by Hand. The success of the project led to the similar design attitude of the Egret houses. In addition to its fine interior, what marks this house as special is the lively treatment of the cedar boards that surround the extensive first floor porches.

Tom Holloman, architect; Alyce Deshotels, David Dieckhoff


Crescent Park

Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, executive architect; R. Allen Eskew, principal-in-charge; Mark Ripple, consulting principal; Amanda Rivera, project manager; Hargreaves Associates; Michael Maltzan Associates, Adjaye/Associates

Crescent Park, whose upriver portion has recently opened, is a sleeper. Despite its proximity to the Vieux Carré, it hasn’t yet registered on the tourist radar. However, to residents in nearby Marigny and Bywater it presents a great urban amenity. The park is a legacy and tribute to the urban vision of the late Allen Eskew, who gathered an impressive international project team, including Hargreaves Associates, landscape architects, as lead designers. Crescent Park is a mile and a half in length, and it varies from a thin strip of land along the river to larger destinations along its length. Access to the park has been an issue because of the railroad and floodwall separating the neighborhoods and the river.

The park’s most visible element is the steel arch pedestrian bridge at Piety Street. It is a simple, elegant form, visible at a distance in the horizontal landscape. It was designed by David Adjaye, an architect who has become widely recognized for his design role in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The bridge is a compelling object, yet the experience of it is counterintuitive. Captured within the steel arched wall structure are stairs rising to the top. However, because of the wall height the view is highly constricted; only the view of the Crescent City Connection directly ahead is offered. The memory of this constriction remains as one then strolls along the extraordinary panorama of the riverfront at the park edge.

There is a plaza near this “Rusted Rainbow” that incorporates the concrete end wall of the demolished Piety Street wharf. The plaza is open and expansive; one even wishes for a bit of shade or shelter. Finely detailed walls and guardrails provide enclosure, and the views are thrilling. Just downriver from the plaza wooden remnants of the wharf structure are slowly being captured by the river.

Another unusual condition occurs at the upriver end of Crescent Park. After crossing a horizontal steel truss bridge, one descends into a skeletal steel structure, the remains of the Mandeville Street wharf. Whether programed for events, or just as an immense empty shed, it’s a wonderful frame for overlooking the city skyline and the activity along the Mississippi.


Delgado Maritime and Industrial Training Center

Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects; Thomas M. Brown, principal-in-charge; Jared Reynolds, job captain; Julia Stefanski, interiors, Randy Fiveash

This building serves a combination of uses important to Delgado Community College’s educational mission. It is a brainchild of Rick Schwab, longtime director of the programs that provide training for industrial firefighters and marine industry workers of various descriptions. Groups also come to the facility from outside the area, even outside the country for specialized training. Thus, an important goal of the project was to provide a sense of New Orleans, even though the project is at Michoud, near the immense NASA facility. The local identity is affirmed primarily through the site design; this is one of surprisingly few buildings in our locale that have a demonstrably positive relation with water.

The site for the project is adjacent to an existing fire training ground. There was a drainage canal bisecting the site, and the architects employed a strategy incorporating the canal as a primary design element. Upon arrival, one sees the building framed over the water, and the architects designed a footbridge that brings you across. Then one turns and moves under a brilliant red canopy toward the glass lobby. The lobby glazing is articulated with external horizontal lightshelves arranged in a checkerboard pattern, catching the light and reflecting it inside. The two-story lobby is adjoined by a café/dining space on the first floor and the administrative office suite above. To the right on both levels are a matter-of-fact series of classrooms.

In this state-of-the-art setting, virtual reality is a valuable tool for simulating critical conditions requiring crisis resolution in fire and maritime emergencies. There are three maritime simulators that provide opportunities for piloting vessels through waterways worldwide in a variety of challenging environmental conditions. Although this component of training occurs in a “black box” space, it complements the memorable architectural experience of the building itself.


Residence With Style

Upperline House

An addition that completely transforms a house is newly evident Uptown. The new street façade holds a porch and deck with a layer of movable louvers that control the afternoon sun while providing a successful counterpoint to the adjacent older houses. Inside the new living/dining spaces also open to a garden facing porch. Finally, the screened carport provides for flexible occupancy.

Colectivo; Sarah Saterlee, Seth Welty


YAYA Arts Center

bildDESIGN; Byron Mouton, project architect; Lauren Hickman, Emile Lejuene

The headquarters of the high-profile arts organization YAYA is a showstopper on LaSalle Street in Central City. Yet it’s a low budget project, a truly collaborative design process of owner, contractor and architect, with an ad hoc quality that matches the variety of activities that can occur there. The L-shaped building generates a sizable courtyard on the Uptown side, a prime example of the project’s flexibility. During the day, it can support working/learning activities spilling out from the adjacent interior spaces. In the evening, it can transform into a compelling event space, benefitting from sparkly strings of electric lights above. With its permeable gravel surface the courtyard feels like a people space; officially, it also provides the required parking. This kind of creative accommodation is particularly valuable for an organization that’s changing and growing in ways that can be unpredictable.

The building holds several types of space. On the ground floor front is a small gallery. The rooms behind, accessible along a covered outdoor walkway, provide the organization’s offices. On the second floor a conference room overlooks the street, behind is a large flexible studio space open to the tall sloping roof above. The back building is a large open metal volume dedicated to fabrication.

There are clever uses of everyday materials. For example, metal mesh screening is deployed to frame the street/courtyard entrance. This same screening provides guardrails for the outdoor corridors, while catching light and providing visibility. These corridors are wide enough for activities and provide shelter from the elements, yet at low cost. As contractor Jim Landis said to Byron Mouton when the building opened, “You’ve given them what they just needed.”


Residence With Style

“Zimple” St. Courtyard

Our search for New Orleans’s smallest courtyard continues with this new entrant. On a midblock site, with houses close on either side, the courtyard provides a respite of privacy that also gives special character to the master bedroom beyond.

Office of Jonathan Tate; Jonathan Tate, principal-in-charge Robert Baddour, Rebecca Fitzgerald, Kristian Mizes

 

 

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