The project is the rehabilitation of adjoined 3-story brick buildings in the Central Business District to support an office space and five residential apartments. Natchez is an example of a historic preservation project that displays all the characteristics of successful rehabilitation: enhancement of the building’s existing environmental features, celebration of historical character and contribution to the economic vitality of a developing downtown neighborhood.
As a largely vacant property, one of the structures had fallen into extreme disrepair. The need to replace all of the structural framing inspired a design that increases the space efficiency by utilizing a four-story split level concept at the center. Another opportunity came with the fragmented brick wall on the back property line, which was rebuilt to frame in a new dining volume for the two-bedroom units.
Historic elements of the building’s architecture were preserved, the highlight being an intricately detailed bathroom within an existing vaulted brick structure on the ground floor. The large historic windows were restored to offer the spaces extensive natural light, light that is borrowed in the one-bedroom units through translucent screening walls off the open living spaces.
The project exemplifies a larger movement within the city of replacing blighted structures with viable uses that contribute to land conservation through urban density.
This project earned studioWTA the 2015 Louisiana Landmarks Society Excellence in Historic Preservation Award, and a 2015 AIA New Orleans Honorable Mention.
View of the finished project from Natchez Street.
The custom milled entry doors and lantern-esque light fixtures promote an identity for the downtown of activated streets and a pedestrian scale of architecture.
Before photos show the ramshackle nature of the existing structures, especially the right building where a missing roof led to deterioration of all the interior framing.
The brick required extensive repointing efforts and the roof of both buildings was completely replaced. Windows were restored where possible. Where replaced, Spanish Cedar was utilized for its durability within the local climate.
A typical two bedroom plan and a typical split level plan are shown, broken apart for clarity of unit boundaries.
On the left, two-bedroom units rely on bookend bedrooms and open living spaces to maximize natural light intake.
On the right, split-level units remain efficient by utilizing hallway space as vertical circulation.
The ground floor business space takes place below the stacked two bedroom units in the left row house.
The section through the right structure shows how the split level volume works within the existing building heights.
The ground floor unit gains an additional level, utilized as a guest bedroom.
This split-level configuration of bedroom and bathroom stacks on floors two and three, creating the small one bedroom units oriented towards Natchez Street.
The ground floor split-level unit gains an extra floor, with a transparent window in the guest bedroom for borrowed natural light.
An existing series of vaulted brick walls was discovered at the ground floor and was reimagined as bathroom space serving the master bedroom.
The ground floor two bedroom unit gains a small courtyard adjacent to the bathroom that gives natural light to the bedroom and provides green space for the resident.
The kitchen area benefits from natural light filtered in through windows at the side wall to the kitchen and through windows in the adjoining bedroom units.
A truly modern intervention is a front and rear door elevator that opens directly to the upper floor units via personal access codes. This allows the building to feel less like a communal apartment building and more like a grouping of private residences.
On the left is the elevator opening to the two bedroom unit; on the right is the elevator opening to the split-level one bedroom.
The dining volume addition has the added feature of an exterior deck for the second floor unit. The curtain wall slides past the floor plates on each level, giving the room a transcendent feel.
Great additions tend to focus on juxtapositions between the old and new. Wherever possible, the existing brick was left exposed and existing openings repurposed to modern uses. The contrast between the old and new adds character to the finished space.
The split-level units are small and efficient, relying on a transparent screening wall for privacy between the living and bedroom space. On the second floor, the screen is also operable to permit a flexible studio arrangement where desired by the tenant.
Additional photographs of the split-level interiors showing a private bedroom configuration and typical tenant furnishing layout.
The interior finishes are clean, elegant and modern. The starkness and arrangement of the new elements helps to emphasize the qualities of the existing buildings textures and proportions.
The resulting project becomes a beacon along the active Poydras thoroughfare for the ongoing economic recovery of downtown New Orleans. It is a testament to development that is sensitive to the existing urban landscape and the sustainable nature of building reuse.