Best New Architecture
The Top Five in New Orleans
Professional Schools Building
Following their work on master planning for Dillard University, Sizeler Thompson Brown was engaged on the Professional Schools Building design in association with Woodward Design-Build and the Detroit firm of Madison Madison International for programming and schematic design. The large three-story building is well-sited on the Dillard campus. Utilizing the traditional white brick, it has a prominent entrance with a full-height colonnade facing the main quadrangle with its Rosa Keller Avenue of Oaks. The building also has two other entrances: a major one to the north and a modest one toward the neighborhood to the east. This relates to a theme of the building’s design, that the first floor facilitates interaction with the community. The monumental north side facade, including clock tower, currently seems somewhat of a miscue, addressing a group of small non-university buildings across a street; however, in a future campus development scenario, it will face onto a courtyard.
Inside, the building’s central organizing space is a full-height atrium. On the first floor a large, glass-walled, subdivisible classroom generates activity along one side; on the other is a moot court room, designed to foster students’ communication skills. The glass walls of these spaces slide open to provide a large contiguous event space. The building houses multiple departments, and shared spaces from corridors to conference rooms and a large auditorium are orchestrated to promote interaction and collaboration among the diverse disciplines.
Aspects of sustainable design are both visible and invisible. On the exterior, systems of stormwater management are well-conceived and deployed. Rainwater from roofs is collected, some utilized in a sculptural fountain and some channeled through a newly created wetland, eventually reaching the historic campus duck pond, a remnant of the Gentilly Bayou. There is also a large frame above the main western entrance, originally designed as a shading structure. A terrace at the third floor also sports a miniature green roof. Here and elsewhere around the perimeter native plants are emphasized. Inside at the entrance is a building energy-monitoring station, designed to provide real-time information. In the atrium are slow-moving destratification fans at the top – a visible and dynamic element. The client brought an interest in sustainable design to the table, and the architects have responded in a multiplicity of ways.
Woodward Design+Build; Chris Michel, Chris Mardis, Meghan Smith; Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects; Ian Thompson, principal-in-charge; Bill Sealy, project architect; Lisa Kay Gilkison, Julia Stefanski, interiors, Madison Madison International
Opening in January 2010, the Wilson School is an important component of Broadmoor’s revitalization. A 1909 building had served the neighborhood for decades, and now the school’s size has doubled with a new addition by HMS Architects. The original building was L-shaped, leaving a play yard behind it and the architects designed the new structure as a complementary “L,” thus forming a central courtyard. This space is the heart of the facility, immediately visible upon proceeding through the new entry breezeway which is itself a very successful space. One then enters a small reception area and a hallway lobby in the joint between the old and new buildings. On all three levels this area is marked by architect-designed panels that highlight aspects of history important to the school.
Architecturally this junction of old and new is highly memorable.
While the new building contains the larger program elements of cafeteria and gymnasium in a contemporary manner, equally compelling are the renovated spaces of the old school building. Here, new blond bamboo flooring is used to striking effect. An aspect of sustainable design that’s particularly noteworthy here is the use of daylight rather than reliance upon electric lighting during the school day. There is a creative deployment of multiple layers of fabric to diffuse harsh sunlight both in the renovated spaces and the new ones. A daylight fixture of curved metal on the south-facing rooms deflects light onto the ceiling where it reflects down into the spaces. A similar effect is created on the renovated west-facing classrooms, but here architect Charles Montgomery has designed a series of flag-like fabric panels to do the job. In the gym there are two large clerestories, with layers of vertical diffusing fabric baffles below. These create a wonderful ambient light quality without direct glare or the need for electric lighting. Other sustainable elements include a great corrugated metal cistern, a component of the stormwater management strategy. The cistern holds and distributes runoff, and the pavers in the courtyard are permeable with a two-foot deep gravel bed underneath, allowing for more water storage and groundwater recharge. Only when these are full is any remaining rainwater allowed to flow from the site. In low-lying Broadmoor this is another indicator of a highly responsible community-oriented design.
The new exterior is a bit dull, particularly compared with the vibrant interiors. The small square windows give little indication of the life within, although a large working sundial on the south wall provides some welcome animation.
However, on a recent afternoon, seeing the 450 children carefully orchestrated for travel at the end of the schoolday, moving through the central court and breezeway, it’s obvious that this fine building has become a locus of positive energy for the neighborhood.
HMS Architects; Charles Montgomery, principal-in-charge; Jim Rogers, project architect; Scott Welty, Nate Walker, BeaWon Koh
SWAN RIVER YOGA STUDIO
The most surprising project presented this year is a sleeper. It is located on upper Canal Street within a 1911 building designed as a branch of the New Orleans Public Library system. An Arts and Crafts style building, it later housed other tenants including the Moler Beauty College. The building had suffered from years of disrepair when it was recently purchased for its new use.
Architect Errol Barron suggested opening the upper level of the former library into one large space with its ceiling removed and roof structure made visible. He also noted that enough volume was available to make a special loft-like room within the roof structure. A new dramatic sculptural stair was then designed to link the three levels within the building.
The simplicity of the space is appropriate, both because the project had severe budget constraints but also because simplicity reinforces the principles associated with the discipline of yoga. A long hidden WPA mural from 1943 on the back wall of the main room was restored, adding to the ambiance. With its shining new maple floor and the play of light through the branches of the live oaks outside on Canal Street, this is a wonderfully contemplative space. One only wishes that a bit of this magic was visible to passersby.
Errol Barron/Michael Toups Architects; Errol Barron, partner-in-change; Jared Bowers, Steve Olson
ST. BERNARD PARISH FIRE STATION No. 6
Chase Design Group has done it again. Fire Station No. 6 is another striking structure, presenting a forceful new image of public service in the recovering landscape of Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette.
It utilizes the same material vocabulary as the Fire Station No. 2 by the same designers that we reviewed last year.
This “kit of parts” approach to all the new St. Bernard stations is working well, allowing some continuity while each station is singular with respect to its specific program and site strategy. We see the corrugated steel and the flat steel panels juxtaposed with large areas of glass, small operable widows and the warm clear finished cedar that marks the residential zone of the firefighters.
The massing is unmistakable, a box for inhabitation superimposed on a box for the apparatus. The front of this station faces south, so there’s a metal shielding element that protrudes vertically to shade the afternoon sun and extends horizontally to have the same effect at midday. On the north side, a second floor terrace provides a breath of fresh air. The center of the building is active and transparent with front and back entries on grade and the dayroom above. It is a strong, simple and yet lyrical structure.
Chase Design Group, architects; John Jay Chase, principal-in-charge; Nicholas Marshall, design director; Bryan Estes, Ellen Cooper; Stuart Consulting Group, managing A/E firm; Tommy Martin, principal-in-charge
L.B. LANDRY HIGH SCHOOL
The new Landry High School is a formidable building from the outside and a bright, generous, highly commodious building on the inside. It is a big building, more than 200,000 square feet, designed to accommodate 1,000 students in grades nine through 12. Yet diagrammatically, it’s simple, clear and easily intelligible. It is a U-shaped mass, with its courtyard opening to the west, toward the Eastbank and downtown New Orleans, quite visible from the upper levels. The well-scaled courtyard holds a mature magnolia tree, a legacy of the original Landry that previously occupied the site.
Major elements on the first floor include a community health clinic behind a screen wall in one wing, the media center/library in the other and the cafeteria in the middle. The second- and third-floor wings hold the classrooms, and the center has the big volumes of gymnasia and a sophisticated 600-seat fully equipped theater. A very open full-height lobby links all the levels. It is a dynamic space, widening toward the courtyard, with yellow (a school color) supergraphics wrapping the walls. The shaping of the lobby extends into the canting of the downriver wing that widens to embrace the view across the nearby Mississippi River.
The building also demonstrates principles of sustainable design. Roof rainwater is collected and cascades visibly into a reed-filled pool, then an underground cistern and finally into a rain garden that abuts Landry Avenue. The use of natural light in the school is outstanding. Although from the exterior the building is rather opaque, inside each space has great natural light and connection to the outside. In addition to view windows, there are clerestories in all the classrooms and at the top of circulation spaces. The main gymnasium has a large south-facing window and multiple round, ducted skylights. All the edges of the courtyard are glazed on the first floor, including vertical blue (the other school color) translucent panels, but protected by overhangs from direct sunlight.
The building also has didactic qualities. Ceilings are constructed of an open metal mesh that allows views of the building systems above while daylight filters down. In the auditorium, a beautiful space with wood paneling, perforated wood ceiling panels hinge downward, allowing for theater lighting and acoustical diffusion while exposing the service elements above.
The Recovery School District has acquired an unfortunate reputation in the local architectural community for its hostility to renovating our fine mid-century modern schools, particularly striking works of architecture like the Wheatley, Charles Colbert’s masterwork. However, the commissions of buildings like Landry, an outstanding work of contemporary design, is to their credit and a source of pride to the community.
Eskew+Dumez+Ripple; Steve Dumez, design director; Tracy Lea, project director; Cynthia Dubberley, project architect; Randy Hutchison, Jennifer Pelc, Amanda Rivera, Robert Kleinpeter, Jason Richards, Dru Lamb, Thaddeus Zarse, Cecile Richards, Wendy Kerrigan