A DECADE OF DESIGN
In this 10th anniversary of the series, we have a compelling lens through which to view buildings. As in all other aspects of our existence, things divide into pre-Katrina and post-Katrina. Several of this year’s notable projects were completed and occupied before the storm. One, the new Wall Residential College at Tulane, opened August 27, closed Aug. 29 and, after an extensive first-floor remediation, reopened in January. Another, Bamboo Apothecary, was complete and ready for business when Katrina emptied the city. Because of difficulties obtaining merchandise, the store was not able to open until this spring.
Some important New Orleans buildings suffered from the disaster. The Custom House, for example, had damage when the Canal Street storm water drains backed up, and the weight of the water on the inwardly pitched roof was too great for the structure to bear. The building is now empty pending renovation, and the opening of the Insectarium project on the ground floor has been postponed at least a year.
Buildings previously featured in our series generally fared well.
• The Cotton Mill sustained some significant damage. Some of the new penthouse units had roof damage, and a tornado lifted the roof at the riverside wall, causing water damage to the units below. The building is still under repair.
• The Xavier University Science Academic Complex took on water but is intact otherwise.
• While the New Orleans Arena had some flooding, it only lost one turquoise panel. The roof was fine, reports architect Arthur Q. Davis. About $5 million of remediation was required for the interior, however.
• Octavia Books and Poydras Home’s Garden House were fine.
• First Baptist Church, sustained some wind damage to its metal skin. The panels are being replaced with a stronger fastening system designed to withstand 175-mph winds. The church became an important meeting center throughout the fall for the Mayor’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission City Planning Subcommittee.
• St. Joseph Condominiums were fine, said developer Elie Khoury, except for the failure of a historic masonry wall that the architects had gone to some length to save.
• The Ogden Museum suffered no damage.
These buildings and the others highlighted in our series are testament to good design and to the durability that is so important in a precarious context. Here are our architectural choices for 2006.
PROJECT TYPE This replacement building on Magazine Street maintains the New Orleans tradition of commercial space on the ground floor with residential occupancy above. The commercial space houses the Bamboo Apothecary beauty boutique and spa, and the upstairs was designed as a residence for its owner, Jill Painter.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE The building sports a fresh appearance new to Magazine Street and rather rare in the city. It is straightforwardly modern with a crisp counterpoint of white stucco and clear-finish wood strips. Designer Perry Pool, who practices in Charlotte, NC., says he has great respect for New Orleans architecture, “but for me to recreate the past would belittle what was already there.” He felt that simple volumes and a limited material palette would be an appropriate response. In addition, the second floor balcony and recessed entrance from the street are familiar elements within our urban context. The wood is “little bitty boards of Costa Rican teak,” finished with linseed oil and mineral spirits, so a muted color will gradually be in evidence. The severe white of the stucco will also darken over time; it will be interesting to see how the weathering changes the appearance of the facade.
The horizontality of the building is increased by the roof projection, and the structure seems somewhat miniaturized in its context; the two story Bamboo Apothecary aligns with the roof of the adjacent one story, 19th century shotgun. However, the architect reports that the low height of the first floor was an existing condition; in fact, the new second floor is now positioned almost a foot higher than before renovation. The old framing had to be jacked up to allow for new foundations.
Inside, the sense of clean, unadorned space and surface continues. The walls are white; the floor is of bamboo (naturally), an increasingly popular choice among those interested in sustainable design. There is a subtle ramping effect, a serendipitous artifact of the previous structure’s slab beneath. Meanwhile, the eye’s attention is captured by dappled sunlight dropping into a tiny bamboo garden court. This focal condition also divides the more public commercial realm from the spa treatment areas. The manicure room on the other side of the bamboo courtlet also receives light from a vertical slot into it. Beyond, the treatment area is functional, but devoid of the light and drama so evident at the front.
The upstairs is still being finished. Among its amenities are a rear deck and lap pool.
Perry Pool, designer; Terrell-Fabacher Architects, architects of record; Tim Terrell, project manager
PROJECT TYPE This new building is an ambulatory care center with over a dozen pediatric departments. Working in conjunction with Ochsner facilities architects Bill Ward and Jay Britsch, the design team sited the new clinic as part of a new Ochsner campus master plan. The building is located across Jefferson Highway from the main structures of this vast complex. Unlike the other Ochsner buildings, this one faces away from Jefferson Highway, with an entrance on the north, the lake side. The entrance features a dramatic covered portico, oriented to the automobile. The “campus” concept is not very evident however; in typical suburban arrangement, one sees buildings facing each other across a paved parking lot.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE The building creates its own world, with architectural elements that work well spatially and generate a compelling condition that children find fascinating. Asked if people like the building, a staff member, said, “The children don’t want to leave!” Daylight from above is used by the architects to organize the public zones of the building and orchestrate special effects. These are a series of art works created and choreographed through the Ochsner children’s art program directed by artist Emery Clark.
The public area of the two-story building has three spatial zones. First is the entrance lobby with some double height space and a general waiting area. Then, on both levels along the central spine of the building, there are linear waiting areas with entrances to the multiple clinics. This space has a long, sloped skylight that drops daylight onto a sky-painted mural called the Atrium Cloud Wall. Finally, toward the Jefferson Highway side is a smaller double height space with a south facing clerestory above. The tall wall is painted in swirls redolent of water and hanging fish designed by children form a mobile in the vertical space. Thought of as a kind of aquarium by the designers, the space creates a strong underwater-like ambiance, particularly when the midday sun shines in.
Despite the strong positive ambiance of the interior public core, there is still some sense of dislocation that is so common to medical facilities. For example, one can see outdoors only from the delightful second floor hematology/oncology clinic that overlooks busy Jefferson Highway. The treatment zones throughout and the staff offices along the exterior sides are much less transparent, partly out of necessity. However, only small horizontal clerestory bands mark the side elevations of the building. This seems unnecessarily at odds with the strong emphasis on openness and natural light that is so successful in the internal public realm.
Eskew+Dumez+Ripple Architects; Washer Hill & Lipscomb, associate architects; Mark Ripple, principal-in-charge, Steve Dumez, consulting principal, design; Kevin Morris, project architect; Byron Mouton, Bob Kleinpeter, Jay Seastrunk, Rick Dupont, Shannon Downey; Rick Lipscomb, programming consultant
PROJECT TYPE St. Elizabeth’s was constructed beginning in the 1870s as an orphanage and is an imposing U-shaped masonry structure. Prior to this project it was owned for about a decade by Anne Rice and was used as a setting for events. Developer Elie Khoury has orchestrated the renovation of the existing building as well as five new townhouse units as condominiums.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE The project completely preserves the historic structure as seen from Napoleon Avenue, Prytania and Perrier Streets. Jena Street, that had been treated as a service edge, is now enfronted across the entire block by five new two-story townhouse units. These also shield the complex’s parking, located within the block.
A recreational amenity, an outdoor pool is nestled close to the Napoleon Avenue side of the interior court. A new wall of translucent glass screens the area. This was to be matched by a similar treatment on the unit entries direct from the court, but so far the developer has opted not to install the panels.
Within the existing building, the units vary greatly in size, aspect, materials and character. Many have exposed brick walls, stripped during the Rice era and now finished. These walls have a rich, beautiful patina although the interior brick was not originally designed to be exposed. New doors and frames match the scale and details of the original ones. Masonry openings that are no longer used are filled with bookshelves and cabinetry, maintaining the building’s integrity in a subtle way. Some of the units are treated with contemporary interiors and furnishings at the discretion of the owners; others maintain a traditional ambiance.
Similarly, at the scale of the project the new townhouses establish a compatible but more contemporary character. The presence of the buildings and the entrances on Jena are appreciated by the neighbors, “providing new life that had been missing on the street for a long time,” in the words of architect Wayne Troyer. On the street side the townhouses are extremely restrained, reminiscent of the 19th-century row houses common in northeastern cities. On the court side the new buildings are more forceful. The architects introduced a double height masonry colonnade, behind which are private outdoor spaces on both levels. Although they abut the parking, these terraces are much appreciated by the new owners. All in all, the two-bedroom townhouses are pleasant inside and out.
Wayne Troyer Architects; Wayne Troyer, principal; Tracie Ashe, project architect; Sarah Forrest, Sharon Acosta, Nick Musso
PROJECT TYPE This is Tulane’s latest completed dorm, and it will probably be the last for several years as the university recovers financially from the hurricane damage to its facilities. The building had just opened for the fall semester when it was evacuated, and floodwater ruined the first floor. Remediation was required, but the building was ready for students when the university opened in January.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE This is the third Tulane dormitory designed in the last ten years. Like its predecessors Mayer and Willow, the building benefits from elements particular to our climate, that college students studying in most of this country could never enjoy. (Full disclosure: The author sits on the design review committees that oversaw all three projects.) Much of the building circulation is via outdoor galleries rather than interior corridors, for example; and the major stair for the building is also outdoors. There are two courtyards at ground level. One is adjacent to the building’s main entrance, and the other is screened to control access because it is a faculty reception court. As the building name indicates, this structure initiates a university policy to include a faculty residence in the dorm. The goal is to enhance the campus environment by incorporating academic discussions and events within residence halls.
Between the entry court and the faculty residence court are covered terraces on each level. Since these are centrally located and adjacent to the main stair, they are a great location to study or meet in the shade, while being aware of life within the building.
The building features a handsome contrast of darkish brick with vertical panels alternating between windows and very dark zinc panels. These solid walls play against the glass curtain wall of the community spaces, with clear finish interior shutters reminiscent of the Willow dorm nearby. This reiteration is not surprising since architects Lloyd Bray and Wayne Troyer were also part of the team that produced that highly successful dormitory. The concept for this building was largely the work of New York architect Max Bond, a New Orleans native. Last year Davis Brody Bond’s new building at Dillard was featured in this series. One of the contributions of architects Troyer and Bray was locating glass study lounges above the building’s main entrance, increasing visibility to and from the structure.
This building’s coherence is less evident at the scale of architectural details. For example, almost half a dozen varieties of screens and railings are used, where one or two could have been applied throughout. At the entry there is a rather crudely formed elliptical wall of concrete surrounding a planter that would have been more successful as a lower element allowing for seating on its top. Finally, the building suffers from the fact that it can’t be seen or even easily accessed frontally. It is hidden by “The Bubble,” a temporary structure the university erected in Bruff Quad to provide a home for the bookstore and some dining until the renovated university center opens at the end of this year. Only when this large, ungainly object is gone will full appreciation of the Wall Residential College become possible.
Wayne Troyer|Lloyd Bray Architects; Ford/Dickinson, associate architects; Wayne Troyer, Lloyd Bray, principals; Irene Keil, project architect; Sarah Forrest
PROJECT TYPE Opened early in 2005, this subtle, residentially-scaled building is set well back from Jefferson Avenue near Tchoupitoulas Street. It is a dramatic alteration, expanding the footprint of a small raised house. Prior to that, the building site held a stable for horse-drawn city fire apparatus. A lucky horseshoe from that era was found on the site during excavation and occupies a place of honor on the lobby wall.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE This project has the appearance of an edifice native to New Orleans, something that has always been there. Yet the elements that evoke this familiar feeling are all completely new, a direct response to program and environmental factors, according to architect Michael Crosby. The raised main floor allowed for cathedralized lobby and treatment spaces with great access to daylight and some opportunity for cross ventilation. Below in an on-grade basement with hard, easily cleanable materials for the kennel areas. Glass block in these exterior walls reminds the animals of the natural world beyond.
The building is accessed from the large concrete parking lot in front. The architects hoped to use a permeable paving material which would have cut down on glare, heat gain and water runoff, but they were unable to obtain city approval for this innovative idea. Planting trees to shade the lot would be highly advantageous, and grassy islands suitable for this purpose have been designed within the parking area.
Arriving at the building, one proceeds up a generous front stair that can be navigated by dogs as well as people; there is also a discreetly located elevator available in an alcove. The new front porch is deep, keeping midmorning sun and glare from the extensive glass in the lobby. Visible here is the building’s only Katrina damage, the lost blades of the exterior ceiling fan.
Crosby Longo Architecture Studio; Michael Crosby and Sal Longo Jr., designers
PROJECT TYPE This project is an exemplary residential addition uptown. When James and Winnie Hart purchased the property, an old Creole cottage sat on a double lot amidst a forest of japanese yew trees. Architect Chris Poche planned a large two-story addition behind the old house, removing only a lean-to shed addition.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE The completed project contrasts the renovated cottage facing the street with a demonstrably new towerlike mass. On the ground floor of the new building is a porch that provides entry into a large living, dining and kitchen area. Above is the master bedroom suite with a private terrace overlooking the neighboring roofscape from a carved out corner.
The elements of the project are clearly distinguishable, old from new, but they are united by common material treatment and fine exterior colors chosen by Winnie, a graphic designer. The family has gained an almost doubled amount of living space, allowing for guest and children’s bedrooms in the front, while opening up large space in the new structure behind. There is good natural light and a strong visual connection between the entry porch and the adjacent dining space through crisp aluminum and glass window walls. The new interior is a bit amorphous spatially. The architect had planned a more compact arrangement of rooms with a screened porch behind; the owners opted to finish out all of the space.
Above, the bedroom suite also has fine daylight from different directions in each of the spaces, but the most interesting condition is the outdoor terrace under the big sloping roof. The terrace has an unusual shiny metal corner column and a chest-high parapet, allowing for fine views when standing but visual privacy for informal lounging.
Chris Poche, architect
John P. Klingman is a registered architect and a Favrot Professor of Architecture at Tulane University. His response to Katrina may be seen in a video forum from October at http://mitworld/mit.edu/video/306/