written by:
March 23, 2010

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.

The 1,000-square-foot pavilion was completed in 2009 as a volunteer structure and tool shed--though today its used far more by the public than initially anticipated. "The garden was wiped out after the storm," McKay recalls. "There was nothing, zero. Volu
The 1,000-square-foot pavilion was completed in 2009 as a volunteer structure and tool shed--though today its used far more by the public than initially anticipated. "The garden was wiped out after the storm," McKay recalls. "There was nothing, zero. Volunteers came in and replanted everything." Photo by Frank Doering.
1 / 8
The structure was carefully situated around the existing cypress trees, though it was a result of many uprooted during Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, Frank Vallot from <a href="http://www.acadianhardwoods.com/">Acadia Hardwoods</a> came to the site--
The structure was carefully situated around the existing cypress trees, though it was a result of many uprooted during Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, Frank Vallot from Acadia Hardwoods came to the site--after Soniat sent an open invitation to local mills--and collected the trees. In exchange, he donated the cypress used in the pavilion's construction. The roof system was donated by Gallina and the polycarbonate wall by Extech. Photo by Frank Doering.
2 / 8
McKay devised a modular system of arches that would define the open-air structure. Using the donated cypress and aluminum, he created six wall-and-roof modules and slid them closer together or further apart to accomodate the existing trees and roots. "Bec
McKay devised a modular system of arches that would define the open-air structure. Using the donated cypress and aluminum, he created six wall-and-roof modules and slid them closer together or further apart to accomodate the existing trees and roots. "Because there are so many trees on the site, we had to negotiate a system in the initial design phase," McKay says. "When we were constructing the pavilion, if we hit a root, and we did, we could just move the modular without it affecting the overall design or construction." Photo by Frank Doering.
3 / 8
The front of the pavilion (to the right in the elevation) features three modulars positioned next to one another that house the storage space and sink area behind a polycarbonate wall that faces the public side of the site. The pavilion opens up in the ba
The front of the pavilion (to the right in the elevation) features three modulars positioned next to one another that house the storage space and sink area behind a polycarbonate wall that faces the public side of the site. The pavilion opens up in the back (to the left) for gatherings, seminars, and potting. Photo by Frank Doering.
4 / 8
"You don't even want to be in New Orleans in August with the air-conditioning on," McKay 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 <a href="http://doeringph
"You don't even want to be in New Orleans in August with the air-conditioning on," McKay 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.
5 / 8
The only enclosed space of the pavilion is the freestanding storage area, where the volunteers keep their tools and potting supplies. McKay would have preferred using smaller aluminum, "but with free materials, you do what you can," he says. Photo by <a h
The only enclosed space of the pavilion is the freestanding storage area, where the volunteers keep their tools and potting supplies. McKay would have preferred using smaller aluminum, "but with free materials, you do what you can," he says. Photo by Frank Doering.
6 / 8
The interior also features a counter for potting supplies and a sink for washing off. Photo by <a href="http://doeringphoto.com/">Frank Doering</a>.
The interior also features a counter for potting supplies and a sink for washing off. Photo by Frank Doering.
7 / 8
The facade featuring the polycarbonate wall was meant to be the extent of the public side of the pavilion. It has, however, garnered great interest and is now used frequently by those besides the garden volunteers. "People wanted to have parties and lectu
The facade featuring the polycarbonate wall was meant to be the extent of the public side of the pavilion. It has, however, garnered great interest and is now used frequently by those besides the garden volunteers. "People wanted to have parties and lectures in it," McKay says. "It went from this little potting shed into a really beautiful pavilion that people can use for other things." Photo by Frank Doering.
8 / 8
The 1,000-square-foot pavilion was completed in 2009 as a volunteer structure and tool shed--though today its used far more by the public than initially anticipated. "The garden was wiped out after the storm," McKay recalls. "There was nothing, zero. Volu
The 1,000-square-foot pavilion was completed in 2009 as a volunteer structure and tool shed--though today its used far more by the public than initially anticipated. "The garden was wiped out after the storm," McKay recalls. "There was nothing, zero. Volunteers came in and replanted everything." Photo by Frank Doering.

View our slideshow to see images and read the rest of the story.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016