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Small Center celebrates national design award

A young man dropped into the concrete bowl beneath the overpass, the wheels of his skateboard drowned out by the roar of commuters on the interstate above him. Others tried out a temporary makeshift ramp cobbled together from pallets and plywood. Rain poured off the overpass, falling into rain gardens designed to prevent pooling water from ruining the fun.

On Tuesday, October 29, an award ceremony was held at Parisite Skate Park, New Orleans’ first and only official public skatepark and a silver medal winner for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.

Founded by architect Simeon Bruner, the national design contest recognizes transformative urban places distinguished by their economic and social contributions to America’s cities. Medalists reflect the diversity of urban excellence and yield fresh ideas and perspectives that challenge our assumptions and increase our understanding of how to make great urban places.

Tulane School of Architecture’s Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design collaborated with Transitional Spaces, a non-profit organization representing the local skater community, to work with the City of New Orleans and see the skater’s vision for the park come to fruition.

Parisite was driven and created by the park’s users as opposed to a traditional top down approach, observed Rudy Bruner Award Director Anne-Marie Lubenau.

The ceremony was followed by a reception and panel discussion at the Small Center. The panel featured members of the design team and representatives from the Mayor’s office, Transitional Spaces and the Bruner Foundation. It focused on the park’s creation, lessons learned, and its potential for informing the process of communal park design.

“Parisite is an example of how the Small Center’s process of collaborative community-driven design allows groups with divergent priorities to work productively to resolve their differences and come together to see projects through to completion,” Small Center Director Ann Yoachim said.

Archinect interviews Dean Iñaki Alday

Archinect magazine recently interviewed Tulane School of Architecture Dean Iñaki Alday as part of its Deans List interview series with the leaders of architecture schools, worldwide. The series profiles the school’s programming, as defined by the dean – giving an invaluable perspective into the institution’s unique curriculum, faculty and academic environment.

For this installment, Archinect spoke with Iñaki Alday, the new dean at the Tulane School of Architecture. The school hosts a variety of degree and specialized programs that combine architecture, real estate development, historic preservation, and community-driven focuses to provide a holistic design education. Dean Alday recently took the reins of the school with the aim of leading the Gulf Coast region and country, overall, in terms of "what it means to live with water."

Read below for the full story or click here for the original piece in Archinect by Managing Editor Antonio Pacheco (TSA *14).

Briefly describe Tulane School of Architecture’s pedagogical stance on architecture education.

Tulane School of Architecture has a history of commitment to real, pressing issues, and, especially after Hurricane Katrina, a history of leadership in helping our communities rebuild. We are not interested in the endogamic discourses that have occupied academia for decades, taking us away from society and relevancy. In the past, many schools of architecture have failed as educators and as leaders of our societies. Therefore, our school focuses on urgent problems, not self-indulgent fictions. The school is in the heart of the “Third Coast”–the American Gulf Coast–where all the challenges of human inhabitation of the planet are at play. This exceptional location, being in the Mississippi Delta, also provides us with the opportunity to define the role that architecture can take in facing climate change—including other ecological crises, as well as in the process of urbanization under these circumstances—and the challenges of social and environmental justice that follow.

What insights from your past professional experience are you hoping to integrate/adopt as dean?

A significant part of my professional practice is focused on the connection between cities, and buildings, with rivers and their dynamics. For example, my partner Margarita Jover and I were among the first to “design” the flood that occupies a public space and a building (an arena) in Spain, starting a line of investigation that changes the idea of flooding (and all river dynamics) from a catastrophic event into a positive asset. Since then we have been planning, designing, and building “hybrid infrastructures” in Spain, Asia, and Latin America, and also, working as regular experts for the World Bank. This type of creative, innovative design work is key for Tulane as it seeks to lead the region and country in terms of what it means to live with water.

Academically, I enjoyed being chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Virginia (2011-16), where I founded the Yamuna River Project together with Pankaj Vir Gupta, an interdisciplinary research program whose objective is to revitalize the ecology of the Yamuna River in New Delhi, thus reconnecting India’s capital city back to the water. This project is proof of how architecture and urbanism can approach complex problems holistically while incorporating multiple fields (history, art history, engineering, economics, religious studies, entrepreneurship, engineering, environmental sciences, and politics, for example). It is a great example of making an impact in one of the toughest urban crises. We are continuing with the project at Tulane, expanding it to other cities in India and the Global South.

Rivers and their associated communities are at the frontline of climate impacts. Globally, river basins provide the majority of the world’s food and freshwater, and more than 500 million people live on river deltas, which also form the major ports of the world. Along the roughly 2,300 miles of the Mississippi River alone are situated at least seven major urban centers, while 50 cities rely on the Mississippi to provide drinking water for 20 million people. The Mississippi River Basin, the world’s fourth largest river basin, spans 31 states and two Canadian provinces, providing more than 40-percent of US agriculture with water while producing $400 billion of economic activity. It is among the leading locations facing significant conditions of accelerating risk, as well. Similar conditions are replicated in multiple river basins across the planet, especially in the Global South, where regions are facing the crises of pollution, floods, and scarcity, and, most critically, in urbanized contexts and in the rapidly growing megalopolises in South East Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

What kind of student do you think would flourish at Tulane University and why?

At Tulane, a student needs to be committed, not only to excellence but also to stepping out of her or his comfort zone, collaborating with other fields inside the school (architecture, preservation, sustainable real estate), and with those outside the school (science and engineering, social sciences, economics, humanities, and law). And above all, our students are encouraged to look beyond themselves, to avoid cherry-picking problems, and to committing to positively impacting the lives of others. The Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design works directly with communities, URBANbuild produces a yearly miracle of an affordable house designed and built by students, and our river and delta urbanism research offers a unique approach and a track record of substantial impact in the cities set alongside the Mississippi River and alongside the rivers of India, Argentina, and Ethiopia.

What are the biggest challenges, academically and professionally, facing students?

The recovery of architecture as a relevant discipline in the collective imagination is the biggest challenge. Architecture needs to be at the table where big decisions are made. This is the challenge that our students need to take on, and will become experts in, after 50 years of architecture being isolated in disconnected academic discourses or assuming the role of pure service provider. The new generations have the mandate of recovering the leadership role that society and the planet need.

What are some of the larger issues of “today” that you feel an architecture school should be preparing its students for?

We are in the midst of the most significant environmental and social crises, one that is even threatening our own existence on the earth. We urgently need to change the way in which we are inhabiting the planet, change how new buildings perform, how they serve people, how they look, and where they are located. And similarly, we need to rethink what and how to preserve, where and how to develop, and how our cities should be symbiotic with natural elements. Right now, architecture is losing relevance in discussions about the built environment in many countries around the world, and most strikingly, in the United States.

At Tulane, we train students with a holistic approach, giving them interdisciplinary tools to help them learn to identify which are the most pressing issues so they can figure out how to apply their design, preservation, or sustainable real estate development education in order to address them. We advocate for the production of knowledge and innovation through design, which for us, is understood as the creative management of complexity. When we, as architects, are able to go beyond our personal preferences, there is no other kind of professional better prepared for dealing with the complex and uncertain world around us.

What are some of the advantages of the school’s context—being housed within Tulane University as well as in New Orleans—and how do you think they help make the program unique?

Tulane University is a top-tier research university, and the perfect size for interdisciplinary collaborations, which is a priority of the university president, provost and all the deans here. From my perspective, “curiosity” and “ambition” are the two words that define Tulane today and that’s what attracted me here. New Orleans is also the northernmost tip of the Global South. Both facts together position Tulane uniquely as the only top research university that is located in a place that deals with all the challenges—social, environmental, economic—in the most exciting, dynamic, and needed region in the world. And our university is committed to work that brings innovation by crossing disciplinary boundaries. This is the only school of architecture that has fully committed to rebuilding a city after a major catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina. Solving urgent problems, housing people, working with communities to bring them back, developing new scenarios to inhabit our rivers and deltas—those issues are deeply rooted in Tulane’s identity. Because of the uniqueness of Tulane, the School of Architecture is a school that has no parallel.

Tulane needs to keep growing and positioning itself as a genuine voice, very different to our peers due to our unique ecosystem and concerns. We are already a driving force in New Orleans and the region; however, we should also become an international reference working on comparative methods. Our challenges are the world’s challenges, and the best way to learn and move forward is to hold a continuous back and forth between our attention to the local conditions and the lessons learned globally.

Tulane School of Architecture has a significant record of working within the New Orleans community, how will you take on that legacy?

First of all, we should probably say “communities,” as New Orleans is a diverse city with many different communities. They are always complex and contradictory—And there is never a single belonging, but often multiple and always nested systems of them. That being said, New Orleans epitomizes the challenges of thousands of towns, cities, and metropolises set alongside American rivers. We are at the intersection of floods, scarcity, pollution, land loss, and other riverine environmental issues, and we are dealing with the societal impact of those as well as the impacts of post-industrial economic stagnation, transportation crises, and other social challenges. Working from New Orleans—a microcosm of global issues—the Tulane School of Architecture is well positioned to lead the work in terms of how to relate our cities and our rivers in a completely different way. Floods are here to stay, and we have to design our spaces to make them productive—instead of catastrophic—by turning floods into an opportunity rather than a threat. Instead of walls, our rivers and cities deserve public spaces that can navigate the changes and recover healthy ecologies. Buildings need to be adapted to leverage the river or the delta, as well. This is a natural human inclination, but now we must apply it in a different way, undergoing proper transformation.

Can you speak to the nature of collaboration that exists between Tulane School of Architecture’s various programs (Architecture, Preservation, Real Estate Development, the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, URBANbuild, Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship) and your plans for those efforts?

Tulane School of Architecture offers the essentials we need to rethink how to inhabit our planet: what and how to preserve, where and how to sustainably develop the land, and how to design buildings, public spaces, and cities. Dual degrees are excellent choices that round-out an effective education and prepare our graduates for thinking broadly, creatively, and responsibly. We have interdisciplinary studios among the three programs, design-build studios with our community partners, and a wide range of courses open to all Tulane students. All in all, every student has the opportunity to excel in her or his degree while being knowledgeable about other areas. An architect needs to know how to deal with existing buildings and to understand the logics of real estate development. Similarly, historic preservationists incorporate design and advanced digital tools while understanding the economic implications of their work, including the risk of gentrification. And a developer of the future cannot be anything other than sustainable, must understand the potential of reusing our heritage, and know how high-quality design improves the conditions of life.

Architecture graduate student presents hybridized infrastructure at national symposium

Exploring how architecture can improve water management and engage communities in New Orleans, recent master’s architecture graduate Riley Lacalli developed a project that proposes a new infrastructure system and presented his work at a national conference this spring.

The CriticalMASS Graduate Research Symposium at the University of North Carolina Charlotte in April brought together 14 students for presentations to panels of experts from across the country. Lacalli, who graduated from the Tulane School of Architecture’s M.Arch I program in May, said the experience at CriticalMASS was both informative and inspiring with students’ topics ranging from virtual libraries to smog-diffusing glass, Lacalli said.

“The diverse representation of projects reinforced the idea that architecture can be used to positively influence a variety of problems,” he said.

Lacalli’s thesis project “Pumps Politikos” addresses urban infrastructural systems and the problems many cities, coastal cities in particular, are facing as the threat of climate change rises. Among his design solutions, he proposes a series of canopies, elevated above streets and around pumping stations, as green spaces for not only rainwater collection but also civic engagement. The goal is to create a better water management system that utilizes every drop of water as an asset and, by making these sites accessible, reconnect communities to infrastructure allowing them to play a role in the monitoring and management of the system.

“To combat issues such as rising sea levels, land loss, and an increased occurrence of natural disasters, urban environments and the machines that keep them afloat must be redesigned in a multi-scalar, multi-systemic manner,” said Lacalli. “My interest in architecture lies in its ability to contribute to many different disciplines and across many different scales. I would love to get involved with an architecture firm that is taking on projects at a larger city or neighborhood scale, specifically projects that work with the existing fabric and attempt to provide holistic and dynamic responses to potential problems.”

Professor Barron publishes new sketchbook on Tulane’s iconic architecture

Following the sketchbook model of his previous books, Tulane School of Architecture Professor Errol Barron recently published a reflection on the building styles, both historic and modern, throughout Tulane’s Uptown campus.

Although the book took two years to create and publish, it is a culmination of Barron’s decades spent on and around the campus. In particular, Barron taught an architecture class that tasked students with observing and drawing Tulane’s buildings.

“I used to walk students around and give them a sense that ideas don’t exist in isolation. We would connect buildings on campus with buildings that may have inspired them,” Barron said. “I would often draw with them.”

As noted in Barron’s foreword, the book is a personal, not comprehensive, reflection on the campus and its possible architectural inspirations. He used the 1984 book Tulane Places and interviews with former Tulane University Architect Collette Creppell to inform his notes and reflections on the architecture, but the vast majority of the book features Barron’s signature watercolor drawings. The size and layout of the book mimics the sketchbook style of his previous publications New Orleans Observed and Roma Osservata.

The Tulane book starts at the front of campus on St. Charles Avenue with its Romanesque Revival style, especially noticeable in Gibson Hall and Richardson Memorial Hall, and moves through four separate sections leading up to the edge of campus on Claiborne Avenue.

Additionally, the history of the Uptown campus prior to its function as a university is noted in the book’s preface, written by Richard Campanella, Associate Dean for Research at the Tulane School of Architecture and Senior Professor of Practice in Architecture and Geography.

The narrow, rectangular shape of the campus and its quads are a direct result of the land’s previous use as a plantation along the Mississippi River. French surveyors used the method of creating “long lots” to delineate land along the river, giving each plantation owner access to the river and its rich soil and elevated terrain. The administrators of Tulane acquired its sizeable section of from a large tract that once included what is now Audubon Park.

“Tulane students today live and learn within the walls of a wide variety of splendid structures built over the course of 125 years. They walk and bike within the geometry of a space directly traceable to the earliest yeas of New Orleans, 300 years ago,” Campanella writes. “The enriching experience created by this interplay of architecture and geography is beautifully captured in this volume by Errol Barron.”

Copies of the book are for sale at Octavia Books.

NOAF CONTEMPORARY HOME TOUR FEATURES ALUMNI

by John P. Klingman

photographed by Michael Mantese

Two nineteenth-century Uptown New Orleans neighborhoods with complex histories provide the locus for the NOAF 2019 Contemporary Home Tour. The venerable Lower Garden District was a fashionable place to settle in the early nineteenth century, boasting a unique layout that included Coliseum Square as a focal point. Meanwhile, across Magazine Street the Irish Channel developed as a working class neighborhood closely connected with the port activity along the Mississippi River. Following a period of decline in the late twentieth century, today both neighborhoods are thriving; the recent renovation of the Coliseum Square fountain is a noteworthy indication of neighborhood pride, and renovations and new houses are occurring on almost every block in the Irish Channel.

Among the new houses being built in these neighborhoods, the majority are reflective of nineteenth century New Orleans building types, particularly the townhouse and the camelback. There are also a number of contemporary designs; and these are the focus of our attention. One may be surprised to see contemporary design in neighborhoods that are under the jurisdiction of the city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission; however, this is consistent with the HDLC guidelines, that allow for a complementary relationship between old and new.

The most appropriate architecture reflects its time, its place and the cultural values of its builders. With respect to place, it is the elements of New Orleans architecture that are more fundamental than stylistic features. Beginning with the interaction between the building and the street; typically porches, balconies or galleries allow for neighborly connections. Second is the provision of shading in our semitropical climate, with vegetation and building components like deep overhangs, shutters and louvers. Third is establishing the scale of the building that is commensurate with that of the surroundings. Finally, there is the relationship between the building and its garden or courtyard, perhaps hinted at from the street. It is the careful attention to these elements that connects a contemporary design approach to New Orleans history.

A less commonly recognized advantage of contemporary design in the historic city concerns legibility. One can argue that the true value of a historic building is more easily recognized when set in contrast to a contemporary neighbor. Instead, we often attempt to show appreciation for the past with a twenty-first century recreation of a nineteenth century style. There is some uneasiness that arises from this approach however. The fine residential structures of the nineteenth century accommodated a lifestyle that is no longer the norm. For example, in earlier times kitchens were service spaces, sometimes not even located within the principal structure; today they often form a hub for family life and entertainment. Newer technologies like the automobile, air conditioning and rooftop solar power have changed the way people think about buildings. The labor-intensive handcraft available in the nineteenth century is less prevalent, and building materials have changed appreciably; New Orleans is a city built with wood, but cementitious siding has replaced old growth cypress. Synthetic stucco, a thin veneer, competes with true stucco, and slate roofs are prohibitively expensive. Often metal roofs are preferable to asphalt shingles.

New Orleans is something of an outlier with respect to embracing contemporary residential design. Of course, one thinks about Los Angeles or Miami as primary examples of the dominance of the Modern, but contemporary residential designs exist in historic cities like New York City and Philadelphia. Cities abroad also provide exciting examples: Montreal, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Dublin come immediately to mind. In Kyoto, the capital of Japan for a thousand years, contemporary houses sit alongside of ancient buildings.

The projects that are featured on the Home Tour provide a variety of approaches to contemporary design. However, they all expand the tradition of New Orleans residential architecture.

Click here to read the full story, including descriptions of each home, many of which were designed and developed by Tulane School of Architecture alumni.

Spring 2019 Final Reviews

Final Reviews Calendar

Click on the link above to view the Spring 2019 Final Reviews Virtual Booklet, including a calendar of scheduled reviews and bios of our guest critics. Final Reviews end with a celebratory Thesis Reception on Wednesday, May 8, at 6 p.m. on the Academic Quad in front of Richardson Memorial Hall. All are welcome to attend any or all of the review events.

For more information, email tsaevents@tulane.edu.

First-ever Research Studios announced

Starting Fall 2019, students at Tulane School of Architecture will be part of design research that tackles some of the world’s most pressing contemporary problems through architecture. The school recently selected its first-ever Research Studios that will focus on a single topic, place, or phenomenon over three years, delving into greater detail and complexity in each cycle. Each studio will work toward the production of scholarly outputs such as books, monographs, articles, symposia, and exhibits. Students will have the opportunity to select several of these studios during their time at Tulane. See below for a list of the new Research Studios, the lead instructor, and short descriptions.

Yamuna River Project, The Rajasthan Cities.

Fall 2019. Open to graduate students only.

Lead Instructor: Iñaki Alday, Dean and Richard Koch Chair in Architecture

This Research Studio will analyze and develop scenarios for transforming two historic cities in India, Jaipur and Ajmer in Rajasthan, acting as an independent advisor to the Rajasthan government. In exploring urban growth strategies, the work will be developed at multiple scales, from that of the building to that of the public landscape. The multidisciplinary approach will include disciplinary perspectives from sociology, economics, environmental ecology, engineering, and governmental policy, with considerations about water as the overarching framework. The studio will travel to India during the fall break.

URBANbuild: re-evaluation, affordability, national translation.

Fall 2019-Spring 2020. Open to undergraduate and graduate students.

Lead Instructor: Byron Mouton, AIA, Director of URBANbuild, Lacey Senior Professor of Practice in Architecture

This Research Studio continues URBANbuild’s longstanding commitment to the New Orleans community to design and build infill housing, providing a transformative hands-on experience for architecture students. Issues related to the sometimes-conflicting agendas of progress, preservation, affordability, and replication are debated. URBANbuild research will endeavor to “scale up” nationally, exploring different climatic and cultural contexts and proposing a research methodology for the production of prototypes. while addressing issues of design, community involvement, and affordability.

The Future of Ports: From the Backyard to the Forefront of Ecology, Economy, and Urbanity.

Fall 2019. Open to undergraduate students only.

Lead Instructor: Margarita Jover, Associate Professor in Architecture

This Research Studio focuses on New Orleans’ Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, popularly known as the Industrial Canal, where an industrial landscape meets residential neighborhoods. A multidisciplinary team will document the adjacent properties and buildings, research comparable examples and best practices worldwide, and propose innovative design-research projects, engaging stakeholders through a compelling exhibit and public conversation about how best to utilize these neglected mixed-use spaces.

Resilience Reinforced: Architectural precast concrete systems addressing the regional water infrastructure challenges.

Fall 2019. Open to graduate students only.

Lead Instructor: Kentaro Tsubaki, AIA, Associate Dean for Academics, Favrot Associate Professor of Architecture

Through design investigations, this Research Studio examines the potential of precast concrete systems and advanced fabrication technology to address stormwater runoffs at two urban scales. At the street scale, paving and rain-garden systems will introduce students to water management infrastructure and aesthetically appealing precast paving systems. At the neighborhood scale, linear-park design will introduce students to complex water management challenges and provide opportunities to speculate on advanced precast systems as solutions.

Contemporary Architecture in Historic Contexts: The Case of Magazine Street in New Orleans.

Fall 2019. Open to undergraduate students only.

Lead Instructor: Ammar Eloueini, AIA, NCARB, Favrot V Professor of Architecture

How, as architects, can we think about the future of cities in a way that will preserve their historic character while responding to urgent social and environmental needs? This Research Studio will explore an alternative approach to issues of development in historical neighborhoods, where context is considered from geographic, cultural, political, and economic perspectives, and contemporary materials and techniques of construction are utilized. Magazine Street—an iconic pathway in New Orleans with a mix of commercial and residential structures that attracts tourists and residents alike—will serve as our study area. We will also study Magazine in comparison to other such iconic streets in the U.S. and abroad.

Toward a Civic Landscape.

Spring 2020. Open to undergraduate and graduate students.

Lead Instructor: Scott Bernhard, AIA, NCARB, Favrot III Associate Professor of Architecture

This Research Studio expands upon existing work in New Orleans to envision a merging of urban infrastructure, ecological stewardship, and public space. It explores issues of food scarcity and security in the urban context through a synthesis of several areas of research in urban agriculture, ecological remediation, water management, public parks, and the nature of public space. This research proposes to articulate and substantiate an emerging civic identity in redefining public perceptions of place, infrastructure, and urbanity.

Fast/Strong/Sustainable: Exploring the Expanded Mass Timber Industry for Design in Hurricane-Prone Regions.

Spring 2020. Open to undergraduate and graduate students.

Lead Instructor: Judith Kinnard, FAIA, Harvey-Wadsworth Chair of Landscape Urbanism, Professor of Architecture

This Research Studio will expand the inquiry of mass timber research employed in the construction of tall buildings to include lower-scale and residential settings where the speed of production and assembly are of essence. Hurricanes in the Gulf South have destroyed and damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, and it is imperative that new approaches be explored for sustainable transitional and permanent housing. Prototypes that use local resources have the potential to expand the regional economy and deemphasize extraction industries.