The American Institute of Architects - New Orleans Announces Recipients of 2006 Design Awards

The New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the recipients of the 2006 AIA-New Orleans Design Awards. Seven Awards of Merit and Awards of Honor were chosen from 28 applicant projects by a jury composed of three principles from leading national architecture firms out of Las Vegas. The awards reflect the ongoing work of AIA to highlight the best in contemporary design and revitalization, and call attention to the importance of architecture in Louisiana's cities and communities.
"Our awards this year send an important message about the talent, skills and all-around capacity of the architects and planners of this region," said AIA-New Orleans president Stephen Braquet.

"All of the jurors were very impressed with the quality of work we are producing here. This should bode well for the involvement of our architectural talent pool in helping this region to rebuild our residential, commercial and institutional buildings in a way that should set a new standard for the revival of a city after a disaster," said Braquet.
This year's jury was comprised of principals of leading Las Vegas firms:

James C. Lord II, AIA - KGA Architecture; J. Windom Kimsey, FAIA - Tate Synder Kimsey Architects; and Sean Coulter, AIA - Welles Pugsley Architects.

The Awards:
Award of Merit
Warehouse Studio Lofts
Covington, Louisiana
Brett Petry, AIA

Architect Brett Petry has recycled a 1939 warehouse slated for demolition in historic downtown Covington into a five-unit "Live/Work Studio" for urban professionals. Each separate and independently-owned unit is designed to accommodate full living and/or working environments, with 1200 sq ft of first floor space and 880 sq ft of loft space, including a bath and full kitchen. The architect has preserved the existing steel bow-string trusses, masonry walls, window systems or roofing system; new architectural elements include an exterior second-level terrace and a courtyard sculpture garden, as well as a clerestory monitor to let in natural light.

"What we liked about it was the reuse of the existing building," says juror J. Windom Kimsey of Tate Snyder Kimsey in Nevada. "It was a very good effort to recycle everything they could."

Award of Merit
Chauvin House
Hammond, Louisiana
Holly & Smith Architects, APAC

Local artist Tommy Chauvin and his wife Vicki wanted a house incorporating elements of the Louisiana regional vernacular with a rural farm-house context while simultaneously providing a fresh modern environment conducive to daily life in a harsh, humid climate. The resulting structure is composed of three distinct "pods" aligned along a strict east-west axis to provide optimum solar orientation. Each pod - the central main house with living, dining, kitchen and second floor studio loft, the master suite pod, and the guest suite/garage pod - is a separate space connected by transparent corridors. Large awnings and overhangs provide shading, while openings on the east-west facades of the house are minimized to obstruct the glaring, low-angle rising and setting suns. Inspired by the barn adjacent to the property, the main house is essentially open, with furniture arrangement, a partial wall separating the kitchen from living room, and a self-supporting, ladder-like staircase up to the loft serving as the main spatial references. Interior furnishings were selected to evoke an elegant modern simplicity conducive to a rural setting.

"It had a nice approach to Louisiana vernacular with the porches and shading with cross-ventilation," Kimsey says. "It was very nicely proportioned and detailed."

Award of Merit
Planning Framework for St. Bernard Parish
St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana
Waggonner & Bell Architects, APC

Commissioned by the Citizens Recovery Committee, the project team has created a new vision for a post-Katrina St. Bernard Parish based on analyses of the region's canal and street systems and form. Community, history, industry, the school system and faith-based institutions were identified as fundamental building blocks, and a land use plan to strengthen these surviving assets and transform deficiencies was generated. A no-build mitigation zone along the 40 Arpent Canal is recommended, serving as a water-retention area as well as recreational green space. Architects also identified specific project-related areas of the plan to illustrate what St. Bernard Parish can become; these areas include a medical center, commercial district with town center, government center, new mixed-use neighborhood, a fishing village, and a redeveloped Old Arabi with riverfront plaza and parks.

"We weren't working for the government," says architect David Waggonner. "We were working for the people. They were bold; they really did think outside the box in terms of rejecting more strip centers and subdivisions and choosing neighborhoods with municipal, business, and commercial centers."

Award of Merit
Sydney & Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art
New Orleans, Louisiana
Ledbetter Fullerton Architects

This project is a five acre sculpture garden accommodating 50 sculpture sites set among new pathways, pedestrian bridges, fences, gates, entry pavilions, site furnishings, water features, architectural seating areas along with new grading, plantings, irrigation, site lighting, security and signage. Each sculpture site is situated within a naturalistic layout of paths and garden features with subtle visual connections to the sculptures. The entire site is organized around a central axis running from the entry pavilions to a secondary entrance near the City Park Botanical Garden. The abstract design of the architectural features create a backdrop for the largely figurative collection of sculpture.

"We liked how they were careful not to overwhelm the existing sculpture," Kimsey says. "The lighting was really nice, creating a tranquil and bucolic space for people to enjoy the area as well as the art."

Award of Honor
Louisiana State Museum
Baton Rouge, LouisianaEskew+Dumez+Ripple for the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism

This new museum is located across Fourth Street from the State Library, built in 1958. Fourth Street serves as both the primary and symbolic entrance onto the Capitol Grounds, connecting the Capitol to the City of Baton Rouge. The museum can be approached from either the State Library across Fourth Street or the adjacent Capitol Gardens and Tower; visitors from either direction converge at a large, covered terrace that provides framed views of the Capitol. The building facades vary from highly articulated to the east to a more restrained composition on the remaining sides. A perforated screen wall filters daylight into the space and changes in character from a shimmering, silvery object by day to a translucent, glowing presence at night.

"We liked the large open-air porch entrance, and the way the building was brought open from different directions," says Kimsey.

Award of Honor
The Shaw Center for the Arts
Baton Rouge, LA

This new center for the arts is the outcome of a historic collaboration between Louisiana State University, the City of Baton Rouge, the State of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge Area foundation. The program is also an assembly of diverse components. It is a collection of arts programs, retails, classrooms, galleries, a museum, a 300-seat theater with a black box and rehearsal spaces, a central plant and administrative offices. The project encompasses portions of three city blocks in the heart of the cultural district of downtown Baton Rouge, linking it through the main atrium to a public plaza that also fronts the Old State Capitol across the street and the Water Works tower. This is interconnection of spaces, combined with a series of rooftop terraces for retail and ceremonies, attempts to focus the development towards the expansive views of the Mississippi River one block away. Translucent glass channels operate as a rain screen over a corrugated aluminum cladding and together, they create a variety of transparencies and reflections.

"The glass facades are great and very attractive, and we liked how the complex had places to outside on top of the structure and hang out," says Kimsey.

Award of Honor
Restoration of St. Mary Minor Basilica
Natchez, Mississippi
Waggonner & Bell Architects, APC

In the spring of 1998, a tornado toppled buttress pinnacles, inflicting roof damage and precipitating a comprehensive restoration of the 1842 Cathedral of Natchez, the tallest structure in that historic city. The design project encompassed the replacement of the roof, improvement of access inside the clock tower and renovation of the decorative interior. The initial phase of work concentrated on the exterior and the tower, including restoration of the spire and installation of a new standing seam copper roof. The damaged copper-clad pinnacles, originally wood painted white, were reconceived in cast stone to provide better stability and better harmonize with existing stone and stucco elements of the building.

"The replacement of the wood pinnacle with stone was indicative of us trying to help a place come back from a disaster better than ever," says project Principal-in-Charge David Waggonner. "You go back and say, 'What was the problem; why did it fail?' then use the solution to aspire to something better."

The second phase addressed interior finishes and decorative treatments. Asbestos tiles were removed from walls and ceilings, and plaster surfaces were restored. A new painting scheme was created based upon long-obscured patterns and historic photographs. Custom stencils and gold leafing were employed, and colors were hand-mixed to adjust to on-site conditions. Lighting of the interior worship space was entirely redesigned to complement the newly-restored volume.

"This was a no-brainer among the entire team of jurors," Kimsey says. "It was just extremely well-planned, well-executed and well-documented."

AIA has through its awards and other programs sought to increase the awareness and appreciation of the role of architects and architecture in the life of the region. The organization was and has been very heavily involved in all urban development efforts in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. Before the storm, AIA sponsored six charrettes in three parishes including the Riverfront Charrette in January 2004 and the Smart Growth Summit in 2005. AIA also hosted the first major post-Katrina planning forum, the Governor's Recovery & Rebuilding Conference, in November, 2005. Most recently, the organization launched CityWorks, a new nonprofit aimed at transforming metro New Orleans into a model city for the nation by fostering a stimulating environment for dialogue and debate, and communicating to a large audience the importance of design in creating a vibrant and vital public life. Learn more at and

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