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May and Ellis is a 25 unit residential project in the French Quarter. It includes the redevelopment of two buildings side by side on Chartres Street near Canal, where buildings gradually transition from larger commercial structures to the familiar typologies of the Vieux Carre. In fact, these are early 20th century buildings designed for ground floor showrooms with warehouse storage above. Because they are deep buildings in the middle of the block, converting them to residences above the ground floor presented both challenges and opportunities for the architects.
The primary challenge was finding a means to get natural light into the buildings. Here the designers made use of a common, historic French Quarter element: the courtyard. Each of the buildings now has a court, actually a roof terrace at the second level where the residential floors begin. These lightwells have a striking contemporary character. The larger one, in the taller building provides entrances to units from a covered exterior corridor than encircles them. Within the space the original heavy timber columns and beams are revealed. The smaller court provides some terraces and openings into adjacent units. This one is marked by a system of fibercement panels that become progressively lighter in color from top to bottom, evening the light levels. Also by combining the two buildings into one lot of record, windows could be added to the downriver side of the taller structure. Removing square footage for the lightcourts was balanced by adding some net square footage on the rooftops. The logic of this proposal was recognized and supported by the Vieux Carre Commission. There are two new contemporary rooftop spaces. One is a lounge, exercise room and terrace for all the residents, and the other is a large penthouse apartment.
The units are commodious. Some have exposed brick walls and original wood structural elements revealed. Serious efforts were made to provide quiet, highly desirable for life in the French Quarter; units have extensive soundproofing as well as separation from activities below. The ground floor includes Justine, the new restaurant designed by Farouki Farouki. A wonderful innovation is an in-between space created just inside the restored bifold entrance doors. There is an area of tables like an inset sidewalk café, with its own menu, that can be opened to the outside environment in pleasant weather.
It is quite common in the older sections of New Orleans to see three, four or even five identical houses along a block. Here is a definitive twenty-first century version. The basic shape is simple, a “Monopoly House form,” in the words of architect Lee Ledbetter. There is a nicely proportioned recessed entry, each house with slightly different color palette. Walls of traditional horizontal siding gain visual interest from a counterpoint with natural Spanish cedar slats wrapping the corner above the entry and between the windows. In the afternoon shadows from mature live oaks play sensuously upon the planar facades.
A 7th Ward library opened last year, the sixth and final new NOPL branch library building arising from the post-Katrina flooding. More than tripling the size of a 1954 library building on the site, the building is highly visible from tree lined St. Bernard Avenue. The location enhances the building’s public presence, and a bus stop on the corner increases its easy accessibility.
The building is an L shape; there is a glass-fronted reading room on one side, and a more solid rectangular volume, clad in a wood-like composite, extends outward. As you enter, the information desk acts as a spatial divider. To the left are the books and the reading space along the street edge. To the right, the more solid volume contains an area of computer terminals, popular in libraries nationwide. Beyond this zone is a pleasant multipurpose room in demand for neighborhood meetings. Administrative and service areas behind the desk complete the compact plan.
The vertical scale of the interior spaces is quite generous. The larger volume is to the single pitched roof that increases in height toward St. Bernard Avenue, with utilities organized above a dark slat ceiling. Lighting reinforces the spatial system. Along the front edge there is plenty of daylight from full height glazing, and vertical suspended fixtures provide electric lighting for evening operating hours. There is less ambient light in the computer terminal area, so as not to conflict with the self-illuminated screens. The book and reading area is a completely flexible space, important as the programming for libraries continues to change. Many of the bookshelves are on wheels! However, a bit more demarcation beyond the arrangement of furniture would be welcome, particularly to provide more definition and acoustical separation for the children’s area.
An exciting new public space has been created on the middle of Tulane University’s Uptown Campus. It is the home base for students of the A. B. Freeman School of Business. The major focus is a “wow space,” a three-story atrium that replaces Keller Plaza, a pleasant but underutilized hardscape in front of the 1984 postmodern business school building. The new atrium extends lakeward to also enclose the Waggonner and Ball Goldring/Woldenberg II façade from 2000.
Directly across from the Lavin Bernick Center, the wall of the new building waves to accommodate the canopy of McAlister Way’s live oaks. There is a fine reciprocity between the public nature of the LBC and that of the new building, particularly apparent at night. This west facing front wall is all glass, but it has a greenish tint and some opacity on its surface, known as fritting. These factors, as well as shade from the oaks, ameliorate what would otherwise be a harsh, hot condition in the afternoon. Of course, some operable windows would have enhanced the connection between indoors and out. The building has a number of sustainable design elements, allowing it to meet a national LEED Gold standard.
Inside the atrium there are several dynamic conditions. First is the multiplicity of places to be, beginning with tables on the ground floor where students can study or engage in group projects. Second is the handsome articulated ramp and stair circulation system, including a suspended stair that forms the eastern edge of the atrium, and not incidentally, masks the 1984 façade. Between the stair edge and the old façade are linear galleries on each level, wide enough for informal activities that also provide access to adjacent offices and teaching spaces. Most dramatically, there are two translucent towerlike elements within the atrium, one an extruded ellipse and the other a cylinder. The spaces inside demonstrate “learning on display,” according to architect Bill Butler. They feature furniture that can be easily rearranged, allowing for a variety of podlike configurations that characterize current business school teaching methodologies.
In a further nod to campus connectivity, the architects designed a new ground floor coffee shop that opens onto the Monroe Quad, previously an unlovely back to the building. The new project successfully orchestrates a unification of three structures into an expressive, highly visible home for the Freeman School community. Although bordering on the edge of extravagance that marks 21st century capitalism, it is a highly successful people place and an excellent example of contemporary architecture.
On a verdant street near Coliseum Square, architect Wayne Troyer has completed a major renovation/addition to his own house. It respects the linear footprint of the original midcentury modern dwelling, but brings a new vertical scale into play. There is a compelling quirkiness to the exterior composition, particularly with a large corner clerestory turret acting as an architectural exclamation point. Vertical board siding introduces another level of syncopation to the dynamic exterior, while inside the dramatic new kitchen and dining spaces provide a new level of amenity.
On 864 South Peters Street near St. Joseph there is a new 5-story building designed by Trapolin-Peer Architects. The building has a strong immediate presence, it part because of its size, adjacent to 2-story buildings on either side; however, it is also noteworthy for the subtle treatment of the elevations. Its façade features a subtle combination of elements rendered in two kinds of dark brick. The first floor is designed for retail space. The second and third levels are parking decks, and the two floors above are designed for office occupancy. These floors have large, well-proportioned openings, but slightly set back within them are more bricks in an unusual arrangement. They are reflective ironspot dark bricks on the top and along one side of a glazed opening. This frame-within-a-frame effect simultaneously establishes two scales. A similar treatment is used on the two parking deck floors below. Here, the elements are slightly inset brick screenwalls on each level that provide ventilation for the parking structure and punctuate the façade in an unusual way.
The original project also included the renovation of a 19th century warehouse next door, so the vertical circulation is on the edge between the two buildings. During construction the ownership changed, and the two projects were separated. The fifth floor interior has been built out for offices by the new owner Woodward Design+Build. Conceptually, the plan is simple. Like many properties in the Warehouse District, the site is a parallelogram; and the building fills the property. The center of the plan is mostly service. This middle zone is surrounded by a corridor with a lower ceiling height to allow for services above. Thus the perimeter edge spaces can be very tall, and the low open office dividers allow for great daylight penetration. There are motorized translucent shades to mediate direct sun, when necessary.
Leviton, an international high tech electrical firm, occupies the space. The New Orleans office focuses on Energy Management, Controls & Automation. Leviton VP Jay McLellan spoke of the positive effects of the new environment on company operations. He said that collaboration among the staff occurs more naturally in the open plan. In addition, with stunning views in all directions, the interior is remarkably well-connected to its New Orleans home.
This project in the Irish Channel is a 2-family residence, a very common program in the city. However, its organization, contemporary architectural treatment and emphasis on sustainable systems are less typical. There is a single story rental unit on one side. The owner’s unit, for builder Robert Bandzuch, is beside it and occupies the entire second floor. Architectural interest is enhanced by the use of multiple cladding materials. Dark, wide siding enhances verticality while areas of natural finish wood mark front entries and much of the garden façade. Here, extensive development includes a pleasant pool and pavilion.
A rather audacious, compelling new building has opened on Elysian Fields Avenue near North Claiborne. It provides a wide array of health and wellness services to a New Orleans population not served by more traditional medical care systems. The new center, brings together more than 200 staff who were previously housed in locations around the city. It brings a wide range of amenities to a previously sleepy stretch of the city’s widest boulevard that has not been well served with medical facilities. Its three-story height, strong forms and blue color bring new energy to the neighborhood; yet the scale of the project is not overwhelming.
From the street, the building holds visual interest and provides legibility. This is true inside as well, an extremely important aspect of promoting well-being for people engaging medical facilities. The building occupies a full city block with much of the ground floor providing parking. There are three entrances from the avenue; one provides access to the Hope Community Credit Union. Another provides direct, discreet access from the street to preventative services; and the central entry leads to a main stair and elevator that take one up to the departments on the second and third floors. Perhaps counterintuitively, the major public clinic functions are on the third floor. Upon arrival, the logic of this design concept becomes clear. The heart of the building is a “Main Street” that extends through the full length of the building from front to back. It is a generous circulation space, with a linear daylighting monitor that pops up the roof, providing ambient light. At the Elysian Fields end there is a large public waiting and reception zone, and along the Main Street are entrances to a multiplicity of clinics; at the far end is a staff zone. At both ends of this space are large windows that connect and orient those inside to the neighborhood.
In the diagnostic and treatment areas, exam rooms are organized in a system that separates access for staff and patients. This is innovative and indicative of the clarity and intelligence that pervades the design. On the 2nd floor are other departments that provide patient support including a pharmacy and legal services as well as a community meeting room. Chief of Staff Alice Riener notes that staff members are appreciating the new space, and clinic CEO Noel Twilbeck calls the building “wonderfully functional.” A final inspiring element is the ongoing installation of over 200 donated artworks, choreographed by local gallery owner Arthur Roger.
This is a rooftop addition to a rooftop addition, a lively proliferation of forms and spaces that make the house fit even more strongly into its Marigny context. Three familiar forms contrast with one another atop a solid simple masonry base that was the original building. The program provides for a porch, a study and a meditation perch. Natural finish sliding slat shutters can be closed or opened to the neighborhood depending on weather and mood. Color enhances the whimsical, yet very New Orleans spirit of the project.