In honor of noted New Orleans architect Allen Eskew, who died Tuesday, we meander through the great design and architecture we love from the Big Easy.
In 1947, a time in which few New Orleans-based architects were advancing modern architecture, Arthur Q. Davis and his partner, Nathanial C. Curtis, established their practice in the city. The Curtis and Davis firm was best known for designing the Louisiana Superdome and modernist landmarks in New Orleans, including the New Orleans Rivergate Exhibition Center; the New Orleans Public Library; Royal Orleans Hotel; St. Francis Cabrini Church; the Caribe Building; the Automotive Life Building; private residences (including Davis’ own); Thomy Lafon Elementary School; and the George Washington Carver Elementary, Junior and Senior High schools.
Courtesy of Courtesy of Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Dvision, Tulane University Libraries, Curtis & Davis Office.
The Phillis Wheatley Elementary School in New Orleans, which despite its standing as a rare and important work of modern architecture (one of the best examples of regional modernism in the city), and despite surviving the storms and levee breach of 2005, was demolished in 2011. It incorporated both traditional and innovative design ideas, like an elevated structure for flooding and natural ventilation, and a playground beneath its cantilevered wings.
"Once Wheatley is gone, another part of our history, of African-American culture in New Orleans, is demolished," said Phyllis Montana-LeBlanc in 2011. Montana-LeBlanc is a cast member in the HBO series "Treme" who attended Wheatley in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
After Nomita Joshi-Gupta’s home in New Orleans was damaged in Hurricane Katrina, she set out looking for eco-friendly products and services. But when she came up empty, she called her friend Cheryl Murphy, a historic preservationist whom she met in graduate school, and in December 2008, they opened Spruce, a green modern design store. “It’s hard to find a product that is well designed and also has an aesthetic appeal in New Orleans,” Joshi-Gupta says. “The whole idea was to create a showroom and somewhere we could both do design and sell eco-friendly products.” We made a quick call to two business partners and design enthusiasts to find out why the Big Easy is a good place for modern design.
In the hot and humid South, time seems to stand still and the architecture is often no different. But in New Orleans, Bild Design, headed by local boy Byron Mouton, is hoping to change that. Mouton and girlfriend Julie Charvat watch the world go by, New Orleans style, from their home near the Mississippi River levee. Photo by Amy Eckert.
Julie Charvat of Bild Design exits the Lowerline House. Raised three feet off the ground—rather than slab on grade—the house is well equipped to battle any incoming flood waters. Photo by Catherine Ledner.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, architect and University of Kentucky lecturer Mike McKay felt the pull to go down to the Big Easy to help with a task that was anything but easy: rebuilding the devastated city. He moved to Louisiana for two years to lead the architecture school's Knoa Studio, a program that tasked studios to develop designs for neighborhoods, restaurants, and the city transit system. McKay moved back to Kentucky in 2007 but his work there was far from finished.
During the storm, many of the old cypress trees in City Park and its New Orleans Botanical Garden were uprooted and the gardens were decimated. McKay's uncle, Paul Soniat, was the botanical gardens director at the time and called McKay. A local woman had donated money to build a structure for volunteers, who were the main source of maintenance for the park after the storm, and they needed a design. With very little money, very generous material donors, and a modular system that incorporated the supplies, McKay created the New Orleans Botanical Garden Duplantier Volunteer Pavilion. Photo by Frank Doering.
Inside the New Orleans Botanical Garden Duplantier Volunteer Pavilion. "You don't even want to be in New Orleans in August with the air-conditioning on," the architect says. "The openness and shade of the pavilion fit well with the surroundings, though, and when a breeze comes through, you're fine." Photo by Frank Doering.
The AIA summary reads: "The Special No. 9 House was designed for the Make It Right Foundation to provide storm-resistant, affordable, and sustainable housing options for the residents of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward displaced by Hurricane Katrina. To support Make It Right’s goal of building 150 homes in the Lower Ninth Ward, this single-family home is poised for mass production, anticipating a shift from on-site to off-site fabrication as more homes are scheduled for construction. Key goals were to create safe, healthy and dignified housing to residents in a flood-prone area, and to empower residents to return to improved living conditions that take advantage of New Orleans’ climate and express its deep cultural heritage." Photo by John Williams Architects.
The firm Eskew Dumez Ripple won the 2014 AIA Architecture Firm Award two days after architect Allen Eskew’s death. The AIA Architecture Firm Award, given annually, is the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm and recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years.Eskew+Dumez+Ripple’s prototype design for the Make It Right project developed out of the need to offer residents of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward affordable and sustainable housing as they rebuild their homes after Hurricane Katrina.
Eskew+Dumez+Ripple designed a sustainable housing prototype for “The Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans – Advancing the Sustainable Rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast” sponsored by Global Green USA. The studio was among six finalists in this national “green building” competition to design environmentally-friendly housing in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. The project demonstrates how green building and intelligent architecture can come together in an innovative way, while also respecting the historical context of New Orleans’ neighborhoods. Major project programmatic components included 18 housing units, a daycare and a community center, all designed to meet LEED Platinum standards. The project was also designed to achieve a net-zero energy use by harvesting energy on-site from wind turbines, river turbines and solar panels.