Clean Sweep

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Written by The Independent Staff

Acadiana architects make the draft in inaugural AIA competition

Good buildings are instrumental in building good communities. When great spaces are created they inspire creativity, civility and generosity of spirit - the elements of great societies. This year, the South Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has instituted an awards program to honor architectural works of distinction.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Written by The Independent Staff

Acadiana architects make the draft in inaugural AIA competition

Good buildings are instrumental in building good communities. When great spaces are created they inspire creativity, civility and generosity of spirit - the elements of great societies. This year, the South Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has instituted an awards program to honor architectural works of distinction.

Six categories: Architecture, Interior Architecture, Unrealized Projects, Restoration/Rehabilitation/Adaptive Reuse, Master Planning/Urban Design and Residential Architecture awards all received nominations from throughout South Louisiana. Acadiana was heavily represented and highly honored with multiple Honor and Merit awards from the jury of AIA architects. The following local firms were chosen as award winners: Chase Design Group, Architects Beazley Moliere, Abell+Crozier Architects, Architects Southwest, emerymclure architecture, Angelle Architects and CSDesign. The awards were bestowed Saturday evening at Gallery Tsunami in Lafayette.

Some of the buildings chosen by the awards panel have already received awards from The Independent's architecture awards in previous years, such as LITE and the renovations at Lafayette General Medical Center. Others are new projects that have just been completed, or are yet unrealized. Here are the highlights of this years South Louisiana Chapter AIA awards:

Hopkins Redevelopment District, Honor Award, Architects Southwest

Planning is the operative word when it comes to Architects Southwest's New Iberia Hopkins Redevelopment District. The project took the Honor Award in the Master Planning category for re-envisioning an entire district of a city in desperate need of help.

The Hopkins Addition, on the western end of New Iberia, was developed following the donation of land in 1854 by Harvey Hopkins to create a right-of-way for the railroad, which came to town in 1879. The donation was subdivided into blocks and lots were sold to create the neighborhood that now runs from Jefferson Street to Landry Drive, and from Bayou Teche to Admiral Doerle.

Far from complete, Architects Southwest's Hopkins
Redevelopment District in New Iberia envisions the
revitalization of a 600-acre area in a once-thriving part of town
that has fallen into disrepair.

Hopkins Street is the main commercial street bisecting the district. During Jim Crow days, New Iberia's West End became the African-American section of New Iberia, and Hopkins Street was a vibrant commercial district. Stores, schools, restaurants and clubs that served the segregated community are remembered by the town's older inhabitants. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when Jim Crow laws were abolished, the Hopkins Street shopping district slowly declined, commercial buildings were abandoned and residences fell into disrepair. The neighborhood became notorious as a haven for crime, drugs and prostitution.

Since the 1990s city government in New Iberia has been striving to infuse new life in the district, adding a neighborhood police sub-station and searching for grants to help improve the quality of the public streetscape in an attempt to jump-start private investment.
Ultimately, it was through the investment of a private, unnamed donor who approached the city, as well as the rural reinvestment organization Southern Mutual Help Association, who joined forces to hire Architects Southwest to create a master plan.
What began as a push for a single street redeployment quickly grew into a plan for an entire 600-acre district. Charettes and more than 25 stakeholder meetings were held. In the master plan, the district is divided into four neighborhoods of about 150 acres apiece. Each neighborhood has a center that addresses neighborhood needs, such as a church, convenience store and dry cleaner within a 5-minute walk of all residents. The plan also proposes a district center. This is within a 10-minute walk from each resident and contains a public square, YMCA, daycare, clinic, neighborhood-run farmer's market and office space. The master plan also proposes a Cultural Arts Center to celebrate the rich arts history of the district, which includes a public square for outdoor concerts and neighborhood gatherings.
Much of this plan is just that, plans for the future. Currently realized is an 8-block stretch of Hopkins Street with new sidewalks, street lighting, street trees and trash receptacles. The new public spaces along the street organize the street/sidewalk edge into a cohesive stretch, with the feel of a well-tended neighborhood. Several private buildings have been renovated in response to the new streetscape. Bunk Johnson Plaza, a small park on Hopkins Street, has also been given a facelift.
This is an ambitious urban redevelopment plan, which the awards jury felt was well researched and well executed and deserving of an Honor Award.

204 LeBois Drive, Award of Merit,

UL architecture professor Corey Saft's Passive House-certified home near
campus is a model of efficiency both in terms of space and energy use.

Corey Saft's small town home off Johnston Street near UL has generated an abundance of enthusiasm from the local architecture community for being a model of efficiency in both space and energy consumption. The house was designed by Saft, a UL architecture professor whose firm is CSDesign, and buit by HJ Design and Construction at a very reasonable cost of around $120 per square foot. A-Plus Sevices of Lafayette installed the home's mechanical systems.

Saft proved contemporary urban design can work in the middle of an established residential community in Lafayette. With just 1,200 square feet, it manages three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and an open kitchen-living area. Perhaps more impressive is the bar it set for green energy. Saft anticipates the average utility bill for the home, which has a 3.264-kilowatt system of thin rooftop solar laminates, to be under $20 a month.

In addition to utilizing solar energy, the house was also was built with extra insulated walls that help it retain air conditioning from a single one-ton ductless mini split system. It is the first residential home in the South to achieve Passive House certification, a gold standard of energy efficiency imported from Germany. (Saft also expects the home will receive a platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.) Last week, the house also made the national news, featured in the USA Today series "This Week's Green House."

In their comments, AIA judges applauded the home as a ground-breaking achievement. "To provide well-conceived spaces with LEED platinum certification and maintain a low cost per square foot was a terrific accomplishment," they write, "which should be an inspiration to all of us."

St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center, Award of Merit, Architects Southwest;    Westminster Chapel, Award if Merit, Architects Southwest; Nuova Ostia Antica, Award of Merit, emerymcclure architecture

The "unrealized" category in the AIA competition arguably offers the most inventive architectural ideas. Because these projects have not been built - and may never be built - they can still reside in a realm of ideal that isn't subject to the scale-backs of capricious budgets or the second guessing of boards of directors. The AIA jury judging the Southern Region competition chose three unrealized projects for Merit awards - two of them designed by a Lafayette team from Architects Southwest led by Steve Oubre; the third by Ursula and Michael McClure of emerymclure architects, llc, of Lafayette.

"For all three of these projects, the jury was impressed with the conceptual development and the striking presentations," the judges write in conferring the awards.

St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center
Mimicking the gently sloping hills of the Coteau Ridge through the curve in its roof as well as the bellows of an accordion or ridges of a rubboard in its exterior architecture, the St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center by Architects Southwest pays homage to those elements of culture and topography that are iconic to the parish.

The 5,000-square-foot building is designed to accommodate festivals, farmers markets and music events. And while it celebrates the culture of zydeco country, it makes ample use of smart, ecologically minded features including a white roof to reflect heat and cisterns and underground tanks to collect rainwater - guided by sloped landscaping and that curved roof - aiding the building's efficiency.

In addition to Oubre, team members for this project are Wayne Domingue, Greg Damico, Steven Domingue and Shea Trahan.

Westminster Chapel
Also in St. Landry Parish and designed by Architects Southwest's Oubre and Trahan, the design for a new chapel at Westminster Christian Academy fulfills the student body's desire for a highly contemporary design that creates a contrast with the chapel's pastoral setting.

According to the designers: "The plan of the chapel pulls its influences from traditional church designs using a nave and transept layout to create the basic building masses. These masses are then interpreted into more contemporary building forms through the use of clean lines and modern material selections. The structure allows the roof form to seemingly hover above the building's plaza entry while the weight of the transept's concrete box forms help to visually ground the roof mass back to its base. All of these elements come together to frame the altar which is set within a frosted glass cube, intended to glow as the container for the chapel's spiritual apex."

Nuova Ostia Antica
The most ambitious of the unrealized projects, Nuova Ostia Antica envisions "a complex layering of urban density, housing, infrastructure, and constructed nature and the speculation of a more harmonious, nurturing relationship between urbanity and nature," as its designers put it, skirting the Tiber River on the outskirts of Rome, Italy.

Drawing from smart growth, New Urban design sensibilities, the project melds high density urban design into a subtly manufactured natural landscape to create a symbiosis; nature becomes "an active agent working to filter and store water, manage storm water run-off, create biodiversity, reduce heat island effect, clean air, reconnect urbanisms to their historical and present productive landscapes, and produce food."

The centerpiece of the development is what the designers have labelled the DOMUS - multi-story housing complexes inspired by the ancient Roman housing type known as the domus, Latin for "house." Think of it as single-family homes stacked one atop the other; each floor of the DOMUS is a single housing unit centered around an open court.

Angelle Architects' adaptive re-use of an abandoned car
dealership in Breaux  Bridge marries the building's
industrial past to its commercial future.

Buck & Johnny's Pizzeria / Lagniappe Antique Mall

Buck Johnny's Pizzeria/Lagniappe Antique Mall, Award of Merit, Angelle Architects

In a modern world teaming with planned obsolescence, half-lives, and the seemingly omnipresent disposability of everything, it is refreshing to witness the conscientious renovation of older buildings such as Buck and Johnny's Pizzeria and Lagniappe Antique Mall. The winner of this year's Award of Merit in the Restoration/Rehabilitation/Adaptive Re-use category, the project was designed by Angelle Architects of Beaux Bridge.

A project like this one, executed with proper restraint and aesthetic certitude, pays tribute to the past while updating the structure for the current period. On a meager budget, the team of Glenn Angelle, Michelle Thibodeaux and Misty Angelle converted a long-abandoned and dilapidated downtown landmark property into a thriving multi-tenant building brimming, thriving and pulsating with commerce.

Left abandoned for decades, this former car dealership on a very prominent downtown corner fell into disrepair. Roofs were caved in, walls were covered with vines and windows were boarded. To bring it back to life, location, size  and context dictated multi-use, reality dictated a very limited budget and design dictated a marriage of old and new.

The original structure - a conglomeration of several buildings - stood humbled by the mini-mall ravages of the modern age. The auto parts section was the oldest and was two levels. All other spaces were added and were single level. Three functions were needed - all relating to current downtown demands: a family restaurant, a downtown antique store, and a social function space.

Borrowing from the building's industrial (auto shop and sales) roots, the team at Angelle Architects, which included subcontractors Ochmand Construction, landscaper Lue Svendson and structural consultant Randy Hebert, employed a minimalist approach to the updated renovation and construction. Their goals were to uncover and repair what was feasible and replace what was not with new construction, while always trying to conscientiously differentiate between the two.

This Adaptive Reuse project, while not a historic restoration, strived to respect the buildings' previous history and illuminate the story of the old structure within the context of the new work. In order to bring the building back into commerce, the restaurant section was positioned in the old parts room with a new mezzanine structure. The old showroom was rebuilt and converted into a small banquet hall. The service areas of the auto shop were then transformed into a space for antique shopping.

In the true spirit of renew and re-use, the architects sought only to repaint the old rusty bar joists of the existing roof structure and then place a new roof above the existing joists in keeping with the classic nature of the building's history. In addition, they salvaged the old service entry door of the auto shop and re-purposed it within the antique store as a retail backdrop.

A good example of the structure's marriage of old and new is the showroom where designers built a glass box within the present roof structure composed of the building's original concrete columns.

With its striking street presence and sinuous fusion of the old and new, the restoration and rehabilitation project of Buck and Johnny's Pizzeria and Lagniappe Antique Mall is just another excellent example of Acadiana's incredible creative ingenuity.

2010 AIA South Louisiana Awards

Honor Award
Louisiana State University Rural Life Museum Addition
and Renovation  Architects Southwest

Award of Merit
St. Bernard Fire Station No. 7  Chase Design Group
Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprise  Architects Beazley Moliere
New Parish Life Center, Sacred Heart Catholic Church 
Abell+Crozier Architects
Merchants & Farmers Bank, Lake Charles  Architects Southwest


Honor Award
LGMC Pavilion for Women & Children   Architects Beazley Molier


Award of Merit
St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center  Architects Southwest    
Westminster Chapel  Architects Southwest
Nuova Ostia Antica  emerymcclure architecture


Award of Merit
Buck Johnny's Pizzeria/Lagniappe Antique Mall  Angele Architects


Honor Award
Hopkins Redevelopment District  Architects Southwest


Award of Merit
204 LeBois   CSDesign