Lee Ledbetter sees the world through the eyes of a painter. In fact, the world-renowned architect said he had to teach himself to visualize his projects in 3D. A native of Monroe, Louisiana, Ledbetter said he always felt drawn to New Orleans, the city where his mother grew up and his father attended medical school.
“As a little kid, the city always seemed magical to me,” he said. “North Louisiana, where I grew up anyway, is quite suburban. Everything is spread out. It’s temperate. This city had a density that I loved – a canopy of oaks and tropical vegetation.”
That living roof of interlacing oak branches took the sky completely out of the young Ledbetter’s field of view. Gorgeous architecture and fat banana leaves were among the eye-level delights that he became entranced by.
Ledbetter would grow up to study art before moving on to architecture. He lived and worked in New York for a time before moving to New Orleans. It was back here in the Crescent City where he really began to translate what he saw under the canopy of oaks into 3D, architectural ideas.
“People compare architecture sometimes to film direction, to making and directing a film,” he said. “I think architecture tells a story of the world, about the people who live in a building, about the people who inhabit or use a building. It basically responds to what they love and what they want.”
Ledbetter’s designs often draw from what he sees in the surrounding area and his deep consideration of what people using the building will see. A perfect example of that process, Ledbetter said, can be seen in the sleek gallery building he designed in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park.
The curved walls give way to an expanse of windows that perfectly frame the bayou running through the expanded section of the sculpture garden.
One can easily imagine a young Ledbetter gazing through the bank of windows at the sculpture garden, amazed at the way the rectangle of the building frames the beauty of the world.
Over the years, shifting media preferences have actually helped Ledbetter better visualize potential projects. It all goes back to framing 2D concepts and translating them into the real world.
“Clients used to come to us with lots of magazine buildings, things that they love,” he said. “Now they all have Pinterest boards. That’s extremely helpful. We are not a firm that wants to impose a sort of architectural look on somebody. We want to take the things that they bring to a project and try to make it the best that it could be.”
Lee Ledbetter, leeledbetter.com, 504-566-9669.