Posts tagged with "New Orleans":

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New Orleans–based architect Wayne Troyer, FAIA, passes away

Wayne Troyer, FAIA, one of New Orleans’ most distinguished and engaged architects, died on May 3. Troyer battled against pancreatic cancer for nearly three years but continued to produce projects with his firm studioWTA that were his hallmark: modernism merged with New Orleans distinctive urbanism and historic structures. A native of the city, he not only designed dozens of the city’s best new buildings but was also active in civic and cultural commissions and boards, including the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Architectural Review Committee, the Preservation Resource Center, the New Orleans Film Society, the Contemporary Arts Center, and founded the local chapter of Docomomo. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 The Times-Picayune newspaper credited Mr. Troyer with “helping the city rebuild, working with initiatives such as the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, the Unified New Orleans Plan and Operation Comeback.” His own house was a hallmark of his design thinking and won multiple national and local design awards. Tracey Hummer of Frederic Schwartz Architects worked with studioWTA architects on the 2006 New Orleans Recovery and Master plan and writes of her colleague and friend who she admired: “Wayne was an architect's architect and great fun to be with anywhere, but especially New Orleans. Art, music, and film were all part of his daily life and practice…his compassionate open-minded personality translated to the studio's work.” A memorial for Troyer will be announced in the coming weeks.
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Assemble converts New Orleans garage into experimental fashion school

The London-based architecture collective Assemble has converted a former car repair shop in New Orleans into a fashion manufacturing hub that offers free education and training for local youth. Dubbed Material Lab, the school is part of an experimental art school founded by the Tasmania-based Museum of New and Old Art (MONA), which also includes a music recording studio and a cooperative garden located nearby. In New Orleans, Assemble, a multidisciplinary studio known for its civic-minded interventions on abandoned structures and in disenfranchised areas, created a space that nods to the ruin. The first floor of the industrial garage was adapted into two large work and production spaces that are finished simply with coats of white paint and exposed concrete floors. One of the most visually striking elements of the building are the doorways and windows that appear to be punched through the walls, complete with jagged brick outlines. Some of these openings frame small plots of vegetation growing inside the building envelope, which are held behind large panes of clear glass. Bright coats of orange and mint green paint highlight structural beams and ceilings, with the orange hue reappearing in the chairs and rolling racks for clothes and textiles. Much of the furniture was designed and put together onsite by Assemble. Material Lab melds the rich culture of costuming, craft, and fashion in New Orleans with the progressive pedagogy of schools like Black Mountain College, a radically run arts college in North Carolina. The lab offers space, professional guidance, and manufacturing equipment for the production of clothing and textile design to youth ages 14 to 30, with the goal of offering a venue for both creative expression and fostering economic independence. With a focus on hands-on learning, the pilot curriculum included textile printing, embellishment, pattern cutting, draping, and clothing design, and the new building is well-equipped with industrial sewing machines, a large dye sublimation printer, a weaving loom, a heat press, other dye equipment, computers, dress forms, and the like. The first pilot session of the school culminated in a December show. Judging by images from the event, the raw and unfinished aesthetic of the space serves the energy of the emerging and experimental designers well. Assemble began working with the school in 2016 at the invitation of MONA and ran the 2018 pilot, which continued through the summer of 2019. It worked with local legends like master beader Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters as well as international fashion stars like Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's men's wear, along with other fashion designers and textile artists. After the pilot, the school is now gearing up to run on a permanent basis.
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IdeasCity heads to New Orleans this April

IdeasCity, the urban culture initiative from New York's New Museum, is bringing its annual festival to New Orleans this April. This year's festival will take place from April 15 to 20 at the Bell Artspace Campus and the New Orleans African American Museum. The theme of this year's event will be "Everyday Festival." The IdeasCity festival comprises a five-day residency program that ends with a one-day public program of talks and performances. In a statement, IdeasCity curator V. Mitch McEwen said: “As New Orleans knows well, a festival is a site of intense reimagination of bodies, streets, space, and time…Through the logic of the festival, we are looking for ways of opening ourselves up to radically new ideas.” This year's presenters will include Black Thought, Imani Perry, Bryan C. Lee, Sue Mobley, LOT-EK, and more. Previous IdeasCity festivals have taken place in Toronto, New York, Detroit, and elsewhere.
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Colloqate instrumentalizes design as a tool for social justice

Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today’s lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins. This year’s crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too.  Colloqate will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 28, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series. Colloqate Design, a multidisciplinary, New Orleans–based “nonprofit design justice practice” founded in 2017 by Bryan Lee Jr.—Sue Mobley came on in 2018—with the goal of “building power through the design of public, civic, and cultural spaces,” is setting a different path relative to other design offices. For one, Colloqate spends quite a bit of time doing the arduous work of educating and training communities, institutions, and municipal agencies through initiatives like its Design as Protest and Design Justice Summit events to “build practices around design justice,” according to Lee. Buildings are not an afterthought for the practice, but Lee and Mobley’s view of how designers and design justice intersect is firmly rooted in grappling with everything that exists beyond and around their particular projects. According to the duo, this “syntax of built environment”—including but not limited to the social mores we keep, the design of streetscapes and infrastructure, and the impact of political policies—has as direct an impact on how people use spaces as any one design element might. So a key goal of their practice involves making others aware of how these overlapping and sometimes competing languages operate so that when they do building-oriented design work in a given space, they can “intentionally organize, advocate, and design spaces of racial, social, and cultural equity.” The practice started off as an outgrowth of the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Innovation District, a visionary urban plan that would transform a 19-block area below an elevated highway in New Orleans into a “culture-based economic driver” for the Claiborne Corridor neighborhood. The plan, envisioned for an area that was once a social and economic core of New Orleans’s black community but was cleared to make room for the highway, aims to articulate a socially guided vision for bringing a public market, classrooms, exhibition spaces, and health, environmental, and social services to the area. Another project, Paper Monuments, brought a flurry of posters to sites across the city to “create new narratives and symbols of [New Orleans]…and to honor the erased histories of the people, events, movements, and places that have made up the past three hundred years” of history. The citizen-led project sought to use public art as a way to further Colloqate’s core aim of “dismantling the privilege and power structures that use the design professions to maintain systems of injustice.” Lee explained that as a nonprofit entity (Colloqate’s growing board includes urban planners, architects, and other design professionals), Colloqate must necessarily take an unorthodox and provocative approach. As the practice expands, completes projects, and envisions its future, however, Lee hopes to apply Colloqate’s ethos more directly to bricks and mortar. “We want to be the most radical design firm out there,” Lee said, “and we need to build buildings to do that.”
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Brad Pitt denies responsibility in Make It Right Foundation lawsuit

After a class action lawsuit against Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation was moved from civil to federal court on November 7, Pitt’s lawyers have submitted a motion asking that Pitt be removed as a defendant in the case. Although the actor founded and directed the New Orleans–based housing nonprofit, his lawyers claim that he had no role in actually designing or constructing the allegedly faulty housing at the center of the lawsuit. Make It Right, founded by Pitt in 2007 to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina, is facing a class-action lawsuit for selling what Lower Ninth Ward residents allege were defective, easily-damaged homes. From 2008 through early 2016, Make It Right attracted Pritzker Prize winners and big-name studios such as KieranTimberlake, Adjaye Associates, Thom Mayne of Morphosis, Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban, and more to build experimental, sustainable homes in the hurricane-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. A total of $26 million was spent to build 109 affordable homes in the neighborhood, and the project initially appeared to be a success and drew design-minded tourists to the area. The lawsuit, which alleges that Make It Right committed fraud, contract breaches, and engaged in deceptive trade practices, is looking to wring millions in repair fees from the foundation and its former top officials. Make It Right, which sued their principal architect John C. Williams on September 19 in civil court on allegations of providing defective design work, acknowledged that fixing rain-damaged homes could cost up to $20 million. Lawyers representing the class action plaintiffs filed a motion asking that the case be transferred to federal court because three of the former officers live in North Carolina, because the final settlement could top $5 million, and because Make It Right was incorporated in Delaware. As for Brad Pitt’s involvement, his lawyers claim that even if the plaintiffs’ complaints against the foundation have merit, Pitt shouldn’t be included in the lawsuit. While Pitt founded and fundraised for the charity, he claims his involvement didn’t extend to anything approaching the actual design of the buildings. Notably, Pitt is only asking that he be excused from the lawsuit, not that the case not proceed. As Nola noted, this is the first time Pitt has spoken publicly about Make It Right since the 2015 Katrina anniversary.
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Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation sued for building defective homes

The Make It Right Foundation, a New Orleans–based housing charity, which was founded by actor Brad Pitt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has been hit with a class action lawsuit for allegedly selling residents “defectively and improperly constructed homes.” Since launching in 2007, the foundation has built more than 100 affordable homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the area most devastated by flooding when the levees broke. The initiative attracted some of the biggest names in architecture, including Pritzker Prize–winners Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban, Thom Mayne, and Alejandro Aravena, and was lauded in the press for its commitment to building green. However, within a few short years, many of the homes began experiencing serious structural issues as well as mechanical system failures, roof leaks, and black mold growth. According to the lawsuit, Make It Right was made aware of these defects by their own engineers but failed to notify homeowners, who would have been protected by the state’s New Home Warranty Act. The suit goes on to accuse the foundation of fraud, contract breaches, and unfair trade practices. “While the citizens of the 9th Ward are grateful to Brad Pitt they were forced to file this lawsuit because the Make It Right Foundation built substandard homes, that are deteriorating at a rapid pace while the homeowners are stuck with mortgages on properties that have diminished values,” attorney Ron Austin told NBC News. “We have filed to make Make It Right make it right.” The litigation marks the latest in a series of troubling headlines for the celebrity-helmed nonprofit. In 2015, NOLA reported that Make It Right was forced to renovate 39 decaying decks at an average cost of $12,000 each, due to its use of TimberSIL, a purportedly long-lasting wood product that rotted in the subtropical climate. Earlier this year, the KieranTimberlake-designed house at 5012 North Derbigny Street became the first Make It Right home to be demolished, just seven years after being completed, following a prolonged period of vacancy, code violations, and half-finished roof repairs.
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Pelli Clarke Pelli designs a snaking business complex for Tulane University

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA) connected two preexisting buildings at the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University in New Orleans with a 46,000-square-foot addition. The overhaul also included the renovation of a classroom, two auditoriums, and two lecture halls, joining the complete sum of 85,000 square feet with the sweeping curves of a serpentine curtain wall that weaves around century-old oak trees and also loosely references the university’s team mascot, the Tulane Green Wave, an angry-faced cartoon wave holding a megaphone. Bathed in natural light, the distinctive skin provides transparency and openness to enhance the sense of community and collaboration in the new and existing spaces throughout, which include classrooms, an incubator space for student startups, breakout stations, a new financial analysis lab, and administrative offices. Designed to meet LEED Gold criteria and withstand local weather conditions, especially hurricane impact, the unitized, hurricane-resistant YKK AP YUW 750 XT curtain wall and the Viracon glass hybrid system were fashioned in factory-controlled conditions to mitigate risks relating to quality control. YKK’s thermal sunshades and light shelves were assembled as complete curtain wall system units, allowing for a climate-controlled environment that eliminates interior moisture and thermal transfer. The glazed exterior also features a custom frit pattern by Viracon that maximizes the visibility of the structure for birds. Achieving both performance standards and sinuous construction was not an easy feat. The design, development, and construction process was a multiphase project. Beginning with the layout, the serpentine steel curtain wall was preassembled while the structural steel beams and concrete were put in place on-site. This separate undertaking proved to be problematic, as areas in the curtain wall that didn’t line up with the prescribed 90-degree angle of the field layout had to be adjusted before fabrication. The whirly glass wall required an intricate five-mullion support system composed of two convex and two concave structural supports. This then required the sunshades and solar fins to be correctly positioned at various angles along the multifaceted surface, calling for many custom permutations of anchor brackets machined for specific locations. Other customization was necessary for the sunshades and fins, which had to be miter-cut due to the ever-changing nature of the undulating facade, resulting in massive opening-to-opening variations. Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects Location: New Orleans, Louisiana Architect of Record: Manning Architects General Contractor: Broadmoor LLC Glass Fabricator: DeGeorge Glass Company Glass Manufacturer: Viracon Framing Systems: YKK AP America Inc. Panel Work, Sun Shades, and Fins: Performance Architectural Inc.  
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In New Orleans, a team of creative collaborators resurrects a down-on-its-luck motel

Few cities wear their histories quite like New Orleans, where reinvention is always possible. That energy is epitomized by The Drifter Hotel, where hip locals gather with young travelers in a lushly planted courtyard around a pool that not too long ago was filled with dirt. Formerly the Rose Inn Motel, a dingy by-the-hour place with popcorn ceilings and smoke-stained carpets, the new 20-room hotel is a study in renewal on a limited budget—all within the guidelines of tax credits that mandated the keeping of historically significant elements, down to the painted stripes on the parking lot. It’s “a nod to 1950s midcentury architecture housed in a former motel,” said Jayson Seidman of Sandstone Hospitality Developments, who partnered with New Orleans architecture studio Concordia, interiors firm Nicole Cota Studio, and Costa Rican landscape design firm VIDA Design Studio to reimagine the all-American typology for a new century, while honoring its DNA. Uncovering the property’s potential required digging, both in terms of research—like hunting down a vintage postcard on eBay that showed the motel in its heyday—and getting down the bones. The first step involved rethinking the property’s relationship to cars for today’s travelers, who are more likely to Uber to the French Quarter than show up in the family station wagon. That meant relocating parking to a less prominent spot and transforming the former lot into a social space, centered on the restored pool. “Once we started selective demo, that's when things got really exciting,” said Joel Ross of Concordia. “We were able to peel off the layers of carpet, paint, and Sheetrock that the subsequent owners had put in and reveal these long-standing, simple, natural materials that were there.” As the 1950s structure unveiled itself, the team built upon what they found. When installing new pipes in the lobby—a 2,000-square-foot enclosure that had been cobbled into an apartment—required ripping up some of the original terrazzo, they patched the floor with handpicked shards of marble that reference the original pattern but give it an updated, oversize look. To keep that balance between old and new, interior designer Nicole Cota imagined an eccentric family of owners, each adding new layers of interest throughout the decades. “The most amazing properties I've seen here in New Orleans are the weird ones—artists’ homes that have been developed over a long period of time, evolved,” she explained. To create the look, Cota sourced vintage pieces and designed powder-coated outdoor chairs, complete with cup holders, and wood-backed loungers that she had fabricated by Mexa Design. A mix of Holly Hunt and Kravet textiles unify the new and found pieces. Pine tongue-and-groove paneling added period-appropriate interest to the ceiling (“a resourceful way to create bones that weren't there,” she said), while plywood stained with three coats of polyurethane and a fresh application of Benjamin Moore’s China White in high gloss gave the space a new sheen—a move Cota calls her “favorite trick.” Today, guests will find Instagram-worthy accents, like a palm-leaf mural by Alexandra Kilburn and a fiber-art installation, by Carlton Scott Sturgill, that climbs the brick, rather than clichés like fleur-de-lis and Mardi Gras beads. In the guest rooms, built-in furniture, white bath tile, and colorful cement floor tiles from Mexico offer an affordable update in which simple, off-the-shelf parts are combined to create a striking graphic look. The one thing guests won’t find is a TV—a move designed to encourage visitors to take advantage of the hotel’s public spaces and enjoy a part of the city not always on the tourist trail, something locals have already embraced. “The beauty of what we've done,” said Seidman, “is creating a hope for New Orleans.”
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Architect Neri Oxman is hanging out with Brad Pitt, and the internet is going wild

The rumor mill is buzzing around the purportedly budding relationship between Boston-based architect and artist Neri Oxman and actor Brad Pitt. According to Page SixOxman met Pitt when he was referred to her for guidance on an architectural project. Since then, the two have developed what the publication called a "professional friendship." Celebrity gossip mag US Weekly took it a step further, claiming the two have been secretly rendezvousing for months, with Brad even tagging along on Oxman’s professional trips across the globe. The Israeli-American Oxman, a professor at MIT and founder of design group Mediated Matter, is known for her forward-thinking approach to architecture and design that fuses natural, biological forms with the growing capabilities of digital fabrication. Oxman has produced acclaimed pieces such as “The Silk Pavilion,” a CNC-fabricated scaffold coiled with silk thread produced by 6,500 silkworms, and “Gemeni” a solid wood chaise crafted to resemble a cocoon, adorned with cells of varying colors and rigidity. Her ventures into 3-D printed wearables also include a design for Björk's Vulnicura tour, a movable mask that mimicked the musician's own bone and tissue based on scans. Oxman’s work is exhibited widely, including at MoMaSan Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou. This is not Pitt’s first flirtation with the world of architecture. The Hollywood star met and befriended Frank Gehry in 2001, leading to an internship focused on computer-aided design at the international architect’s Los Angeles office. Since then, Pitt has gone on to found Make it Right, a non-profit focused on delivering environmentally-friendly housing to post-Katrina Louisiana. During this venture, Gehry designed a duplex in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, his only residential project in the state of Louisiana. While Pitt has dabbled in architecture and design, he has nothing on Oxman’s impressive record of academic and design accolades, including the 2016 MIT Collier Medal, the Textiles Spaces 2015 Award, and the 2014 Vilcek Prize. Whatever the truth about their relationship is, Oxman is probably too good for Pitt.
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Remembering Albert C. Ledner, pioneering New Orleans modernist

In the unfolding of any design movement, there are outliers who are seen as too far from the mainstream, too quirky to be celebrated by peers and historians. Over many decades of abundant architectural accomplishment, Albert C. Ledner was one of those. But he recently had the good fortune of winning widespread admiration in the months before his death on November 13 at the age of 93. Born in the Bronx in 1924, Ledner arrived in New Orleans at the age of nine months and left it only for short periods thereafter. His studies at Tulane were interrupted by his World War II service as a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. While stationed in Arizona he made a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's winter work place, Taliesin West, an event that, in his words, "had such a great bearing on my life." After the war, he finished his degree program at Tulane and spent some time with Wright at his base at Taliesin East in Wisconsin. By 1951, Ledner had started his own practice back in New Orleans, dedicated not to the Bauhaus-based Modernism largely dominating U.S. architecture of the time, but to the more adventurous variety associated with Wright. And unlike many Wright disciples, Ledner was able to escape the intimidating shadow of the master's creations to explore his own related design inspirations. Over a career that extended throughout his final years, Ledner created some 40 houses in the New Orleans area, not only designing them but directing their construction. He was thus a pioneer in the "design-build" process, led by the architect, not the builder, that has only recently been applauded in the architectural community. By proceeding this way, he was able to seize opportunities for unusual structural systems, distinctive uses of materials, and refinement of details without the tedious negotiations and cost premiums for innovation imposed by the traditional design-bid-build sequence. Ledner's relatively unfettered design approach led him to construct spaces of unconventional configuration and detail. In one house, he affixed some 1,200 amber glass ashtrays to the exterior, in part because the owners were heavy smokers (considered okay in the 1960s), but mainly because he admired the ashtrays' circle-in-a-square configuration. In another of his houses, he based his design on the owner's collection of traditional windows salvaged from the convents for which they were designed—assembling their curved-top shapes both right side–up and upside-down to striking effect. Ledner's youthful leap into structures of larger scale grew out of his first commission for the National Maritime Union for its meeting hall in New Orleans, a circular volume topped by a roof of radial, pleat-like forms. Pleased with this functional and visually iconic 1955 structure, the union commissioned him to design its buildings in the port cities of Mobile, Alabama; Baltimore, Houston, and Galveston, Texas. The most ambitious of these Maritime Union projects were the three structures he designed in Manhattan: the Joseph Curran Building in the West Village area, completed in 1964, containing its hiring hall, offices, and training facilities. Two residence halls for union members were completed later in the mid-1960s on two adjoining sites in Chelsea. All three eye-catching buildings have now been successfully and sensitively adapted for new uses. The sculptural six-story hiring hall and training structure, now under city landmark protection, is now the O'Toole Building, an emergency room and medical center. The residential structures, widely recognized for the circular windows that dot their tall facades, gracefully house the Maritime and Dream hotels. In recent years, Ledner's daughter Catherine produced a documentary on his life and work that featured a number of key buildings and much of his own charming commentary. She found an able and dedicated collaborator in Roy Beeson, her cousin on her mother's side. The film was shown in New Orleans last summer and at a September gathering co-hosted by the Modern architecture advocacy group DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State and AIA New York. For its showing at New York's Architecture and Design Film Festival in early November, Ledner himself attended and spoke, less than a week before his death. It is good to know that he was at last able to enjoy these heart-warming celebrations of his achievements. John Morris Dixon is a board member of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State.
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New Orleans property swap may yield largest public riverfront in the U.S.

On October 26, a historic deal was implemented in New Orleans: the Port of New Orleans (PNO) and the Public Belt Railroad (PBR) swapped riverfront properties, unlocking a key stretch of land to what may soon be the largest uninterrupted public riverfront in the U.S. In the swap, PNO took ownership of a stretch of railroad along the Mississippi River and PBR took ownership of two large wharves–Esplanade Avenue and Governor Nicholls Street Wharves. PBR is owned by the City of New Orleans, which now plans to redevelop both wharves as public space (à la Mandeville Wharf). This redevelopment will connect two existing riverfront parks, Bywater's Crescent Park and the French Quarter's Woldenburg Park. This linkage is key in the long-term vision to develop the entire New Orleans riverfront as one contiguous public parkway, as detailed by Eskew Dumez + Ripple's 2008 Reinventing the Crescent plan. In a press conference on October 27, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced several major riverfront redevelopments, including the keystone wharf redevelopments. The wharves themselves have been allocated $15 million. The other developments announced are generally focused on improving existing public amenities along the Mississippi riverfront from the French Quarter to Bywater neighborhoods. They include a $7.5 million renovation of Spanish Plaza, a $400 million renovation of the World Trade Center at the Four Seasons hotel, a new $37 million terminal for the Canal Street Ferry, a new $7.3 million pedestrian bridge over the railway to the ferry terminal, $6 million in park improvements for Woldenberg Park in the French Quarter, $3 million in green space improvements for part of the Riverwalk, and $31.2 million for expansions to Crescent Park. Many of these projects are ongoing. After a series of major floods this summer, water experts in New Orleans are paying close attention to how the city is spending on water management. "The challenge in New Orleans is that we can't rub two nickels together to wrap up our water infrastructure and drainage problems," said Ramiro Diaz, a designer at architecture firm Waggonner and Ball, in a call with The Architect's Newspaper (AN). "Overall, I think it's a positive development, though. People have been waiting for these riverfront projects for years." Waggonner and Ball were the lead designers behind the Greater New Orleans Water Plan. According to Eskew Dumez + Ripple principal Steve Dumez, his firm is now looking into implementing the western end of the Reinventing the Crescent plan. This would open up riverfront property around the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, extending the parkway even further.
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New Orleans firm OJT redefines overlooked and undervalued properties

The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series spotlight individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the discipline of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The jury, composed of Sunil Bald, Mario Gooden, Lisa Gray, Paul Lewis, Jing Liu, Thomas Phifer, Bradley Samuels, Billie Tsien, and Ian Volner, selected architects and designers who have significant bodies of realized work that creatively address larger issues in the built environment.

The Architect’s Newspaper featured the Emerging Voices firms in our February issue; stay tuned as we upload those articles to our website over the coming weeks. New Orleans–based OJT's Founder Jonathan Tate will deliver his lecture on March 23, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

OJT is making waves in New Orleans with research-based work that redefines overlooked and undervalued properties. Founder Jonathan Tate is an Auburn graduate who experienced the Rural Studio under Samuel Mockbee and spent 10 years in Memphis working for Buildingstudio (formerly Mockbee/Coker Architects). After a sabbatical to study at Harvard, he relocated with the firm to New Orleans in 2008 and started OJT a few years later. “New Orleans just felt like the right place to be. We really cared about what was happening post-Katrina,” he said.

OJT is committed to applying scholarly methods to professional practice. The seven-person firm’s portfolio comprises architecture and planning work as well as self-initiated research, like mapping nonconforming properties in New Orleans. This odd lot of odd lots helped kickstart the firm’s Starter Home* project, a development strategy to build modern, speculative infill housing aimed at first-time buyers.   

The prototype Starter Home*, located at 3106 St. Thomas Street, is shaped by the limitations of its 16-and-half-foot-wide lot and historic setting. The metal-clad building riffs on vernacular forms and uses the allowable 40-foot height to make its narrow spaces feel large. It’s become a model for development in New Orleans, and Tate hopes to apply it to other cities. But he’s quick to point out that OJT isn’t a developer. “Development is a tool for us to continue to explore an idea, and to illustrate imaginative ways to work within rules and regulations,” he explained.

The Starter Home* at 4514 S. Saratoga Street further tests the limits of limitation—not only of the concept, but of architectural tropes. “We’re always negotiating this fine line,” Tate said. “They need to feel like a home but we also want them to be challenging.” OJT’s highly iterative process incorporates 3-D printing to rapidly test formal variations. “It all circles back to the desire to investigate.”

That desire also drives the Zimple house, built for the client’s father after he was diagnosed with dementia. Its clear sequence of spaces and central courtyard, which functions as a visual anchor, is informed by the firm’s research into the effects of memory loss. Located next to the client’s traditional camelback house, the project inverts the vernacular type to balance privacy and openness between the homes.

Although OJT has earned recognition for its residential projects, the firm is applying its methods just as successfully to commercial and cultural work like Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, a restaurant that adapts and subverts a fast food joint, and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, built in a repurposed historic market. “We’re a thoughtful practice that tries to engage every project type in a meaningful way,” Tate said. “This is an intellectual project for us. We’re always asking ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing.”