Since we began our annual best architecture feature in 1997, many buildings have been considered; most were rejected and a worthy few singled out for praise. After a decade’s worth of critiquing we thought that this would be a good time to whittle a bit further and determine the best of the past. We found the exercise useful because most of the city’s architectural image is of worthy but antiquarian buildings; the modern stuff usually gets overlooked. We surveyed some architects including representatives of the local American Institutes of Architecture chapter and asked them to pick from our previous issues to determine the decade’s best. From sifting through the votes we designated a first place winner leaving the rest placed randomly. Rejoice, there is glory in the skyline.

10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006The Port of New Orleans

Recognized in 1997; Waggonner & Ball Architects; F. MacNaughton Ball, principal-in-charge; David Waggonner, Charles Sterkx, Donald Del Cid

With the vastness of the Mississippi River bridge structures in mind, designing the Port of New Orleans facilities was a significant challenge. However, the Port was successfully balanced with the intricate bridges through a design encompassing the duality of the river and the urban background. The brick pattern on the city side coincides with the surrounding warehouse district, while the luminous glass on the river side reflects the water and bridges. 


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Lakefront House
Recognized in 2005; Lee Ledbetter Architects; Lee Ledbetter, Richard Fullerton, principals; Scott Evans, project manager

Designed to hold a substantial art collection, this two-story residence on Lakeshore Drive is organized into three transverse zones that function to highlight works of art. Brick, glass and steel in a strong, contemporary style characterize the front of the home.  Sumptuous oak walls envelope the living room and plenty of natural light emphasizes the complex spatial designs throughout.


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art
Recognized in 2004; Lee Ledbetter, Architects; Lee H. Ledbetter, Richard G.
Fullerton, principals; Karri Maggio, project manager; Nichole Chauvin, Caroline Kwong

Enclosing 50 major works of sculpture, this space draws from elements of the adjacent City Park and design of NOMA. Each outdoor “gallery” space is complemented by the garden’s lagoon and three neat, polished bridges. Landscape architect Brian Sawyer, landscape project manager Tim Orlando and lead architects met weekly to lay underground utilities and ensure the garden’s intricate root systems were not harmed during construction. 


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006New Academic Building, Dillard University

Recognized in 2004; Davis Brody Bond Architects; Max Bond, partner-in-charge, design; Carl Krebs, partner, management and design; Alexi Stoltz, Roland Charpentier, Beatriz Fernandez, Jon Prospreo, project team; Nicholas Musso, local coordinating architect

With striking steel columns supporting the large portico and white bricks contrasted with fritted vertical glass panels, this two-story structure was designed to stand out using contemporary innovation while still encompassing exemplary elements of Dillard’s other buildings. The structure contains high-tech classrooms, offices and a computer lab, and the precisely designed lighting minimizes energy consumption and glare.


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Bamboo Apothecary
Recognized in 2006; Perry Pool, designer; Terrell-Fabacher Architects, architects of record; Tim Terrell, project manager

This striking boutique and spa adds a modern, urban touch to the surrounding 19th century New Orleans buildings. White stucco and clear-finish wood strips set the outside of the space, while the minimalist white walls and a smooth bamboo floor keep the inside serene. A sunlit bamboo garden court creates the ideal centerpiece of the stylish building. 


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Recognized in 2003; Concordia and Errol Barron/Michael Toups, Architects: A Joint Venture; Michael Toups, partner-in-charge; Steve Olson, project manager

The lobby of this remarkable space was designed to draw light from outside and channel it through passages to each gallery. The main gallery circulation staircase ascends along the Uptown wall to the first floor gallery, while a second staircase follows the path of the first, leading to the permanent collection – the architects and structural engineer designed these stairs to be ethereally graceful. The square, eye-level windows situated within glass block walls enclose outstanding views of the Crescent City Connection and Warehouse District. Housing one of the most significant collections of Southern art in the country, the Ogden is truly a cultural center – inside and out.


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Whitney National Bank, Carrollton Branch
Recognized in 2005; Eskew+Dumez+Ripple; Steve Dumez, principal-in-charge; Allen Eskew, consulting principal; John Anderson, Jose Alvarez, project designers; Chuck Hite, project manager; Shannon Downey, Rick Dupont, Bob Kleinpeter

Replacing the beloved Oak Street branch, this modern building combines the current need for more parking and indoor space along with traditional bank architecture. A banking hall housed behind a substantial exterior colonnade recalls the traditional, while the striking glass structure within the colonnade speaks to the contemporary.  Expertly designed lighting illuminates a mural by local artist Christopher Fischer and elegant furnishings separate the space from insipid suburban banks; the expansive parking lot ensures convenience.


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Willow Street Dormitory, Tulane University
Recognized in 2000; Scogin Elam and Bray Architects; Lloyd Bray, principal-in-charge; Mack Scogin, Merrill Elam, Martha Henderson Bennett; Wayne Troyer, associate architect

This student housing project combines three four-story, square courtyard buildings with a series of walk-up apartments called Leadership Village along a friendly path behind. Students enjoy the cozy study lounges and loft-style rooms of the courtyard buildings, while Leadership Village stands out with winding staircases in each room. Adjacent to the dorm is PJ’s Coffee & Tea (once a Rue de la Course) – a favorite place to study and chat. The building’s exterior is brick and colored plaster with high, narrow windows and inside, wood shutters and blinds help expel the summer sun.


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Whole Foods Market  at Arabella Station
Recognized in 2003; Billes/Manning Architects; Gerald Billes, principal-in-charge; Geoffrey Hartnett, project architect; Miwako Hattori, Nomita Joshi-Gupta, project designers

A redevelopment of the Arabella Bus Barn, Whole Foods Market exemplifies architectural sustainability – a quality certainly aligned with the company’s environmental sensitivity. While the company employed its own architects for the interior design, Billes/Manning expertly combined a smooth, new glass-curtain wall and brick cladding to form the front of the building facing Magazine Street. The windows and louvers are from the original structure. A dining area and passageway occupy the space along the downtown edge that was once the streetcar barn offices. The market’s interior may feel crowded during busy hours but the glass wall along Magazine Street ensures an airy feeling. 


10 top buildings of the past 10 years -- 1997-2006Norman C. Francis Science Academic Complex, Xavier University
Recognized in 1999; Sizeler Architects; I. William Sizeler, president; Ian Thompson, principal-in-charge

This five-story building gives Xavier’s science facilities a modern edge. Unique windows – those on the west side complete with glass-awning sunshades – along with skillfully crafted masonry piers and a Gothic-arched entranceway, comprise the outside of the structure.  The atrium and expansive lounge areas add an openly social feel to the interior, while the atrium’s natural stone floor and the corridors’ sheet flooring reveal a spiral pattern evoking a double-helix DNA molecule. Another unique feature is the visible electrical equipment along the atrium edge. 


Errol Laborde and Karie Meltzer, based on John Klingman’s previous editorial