1119 Tchoupitoulas St.
New Orleans, Louisiana
2007 AIA New Orleans Honor Award
2007 AIA Gulf States Region Honor Award
New Orleans Magazine, June 2007
A one-story masonry addition to a larger warehouse is the canvas upon which modern materials and careful spatial relationships are overlaid to reinterpret the structure as home to studioWTA. Originally a box factory, the space was occupied by heavy machinery atop poured-concrete mounts, administrative offices, and exposed building systems. Several of the oversized openings to the street had been infilled with block over time, but otherwise the materials were in good condition: brick masonry exterior walls, exposed wood trusses, concrete floor and block/brick party wall.
Prior to construction, the building was fully cleared of all non-structural materials and three infilled penetrations were re-opened to their original proportions. Original concrete floors were cleaned and sanded; existing machine mounts and oil catch basin depressions remained as relics.
An existing garage door opening serves as the main studio entrance, the rollup door having been replaced by minimal aluminum and glass. Steel columns and beams on the exterior frame the entry, as do a monolithic concrete ramp, porch, planters and bench.
Maintaining the double-height volume of the building drove programmatic arrangement and spatial distribution: The reception foyer, conference room and main studio space take advantage of the existing building shell and keep an open, industrial quality. Natural daylight through large steel frame windows (three of which were fabricated for the re-opened penetrations in the studio space) illuminates spaces such that artificial lighting is largely unnecessary. Further light filtration occurs through the walls separating reception foyer from conference room and studio: Full-height metal-framed walls of polycarbonate provide a taut, translucent, sound-attenuating assembly which contrasts with the weight of the original structure. Custom polycarbonate doors function as sliding partition. The main studio space is fully open and features custom-fabricated desks of sinker cypress; its environment fosters collaboration and interaction throughout the day, and is remarkably quiet despite its adjacency to an elevated highway.
Other programmatic elements including a resource library, reproduction room, break room and bathroom are arranged along the party wall toward the back of the building. A steel spiral stair with custom mesh railings provides access from the main studio floor to a loft overlooking the space. A section of wall in the loft is conceived as a white polycarbonate window with a FinPly-framed punched opening to allow light from the conference room window to filter to the loft. Several openings of white glass in the loft floor bring light to the support spaces below. The reproduction and break rooms feature custom-fabricated shelving and storage systems.
Insertion of new materials and program functions in the historic warehouse involved careful consideration of the existing space and the studio’s needs. Modern finishes successfully contrast and complement older textured materials, and maintains a feeling of “installation” which is particularly relevant to a studio culture. This speaks to an idea of the changing nature of space, as well as the mutability of buildings and their adaptability to support various functional requirements.