Mussafer Hall

Tulane University

New Orleans, Louisiana

Renovation of and addition to a historic building on Tulane's historic Uptown academic quad
Tulane University, client
23,000 sf

Wayne Troyer FAIA

Julie Babin AIA

Nicholas Musser

Nancy Bowden Stewart

Toni DiMaggio

Ray Croft

Laura McAllister

Trent Gauthier

John Philip Mouton

Ross Karsen

2019 AIA New Orleans Sustainability Award

Project Type: Institutional, Interiors

The new Mussafer Hall combines a renovated turn-of-the-century building with a striking but sensitive expansion that enriches Tulane’s campus and embodies the school’s values. Prominently located on Tulane University’s historic Gibson quad, Mussafer Hall combines the adaptive reuse of a 1902 brick structure with a modern limestone addition designed to preserve and protect the campus landscape. The 23,000-square-foot academic building is home to the new Center for Student Success which brings together Tulane’s Academic Advising and Career Services programs.

The project required studioWTA’s expertise in both historic preservation and modern design. Critical to the success of this project is the sensitive restoration and adaptive reuse of a 1902 Dutch Renaissance-style structure, originally constructed as the University’s first dormitory. To accommodate the Center’s advisors and administrators, StudioWTA divided the long narrow building with a corridor. Glass-fronted office sand interview rooms lining the hall have windows looking outside, making the building feel open and bright. Two original stairwells are repurposed as light-wells to bring additional natural light deep into the three-story building while creating break-out spaces for impromptu conversation. Wherever possible, the original interior brick walls were exposed and repointed, while new materials were thoughtfully selected to highlight the original structure’s rich details and help Mussafer Hall exceed current energy standards.

The 7,600-square-foot addition was shaped by its challenging context, a tight site between the historic dormitory and a majestic 100-year-old live oak tree — the oldest on campus and the only tree allowed to grow naturally. StudioWTA’s inspiring modern design navigates the space with a series of shifting cantilevered volumes clad in stucco, limestone, and glass. The materials suggest a sense of permanence appropriate for a prominent University and echo the brick, stone, and cement used in the adjacent structure. Mussafer Hall’s triangular footprint is respectfully set back from the historic building and angled away from the tree to protect its roots and canopy. The recessed second-floor storefront deepens the expression of the cantilever above, which partially shades a large roof terrace designed to take full advantage of the New Orleans climate. Mussafer Hall earned LEED Gold certification thanks to its preservation efforts, dedication to passive sustainable measures, and the thoughtful integration of modern systems to improve building performance.

The design provides a bold counterpoint to the historic structures inside as well as out. Instead of the rigorous office spaces next door, the addition houses generously sized, flexible public spaces and conference rooms. Sophisticated but utilitarian, the central ground-floor space is designed to accommodate classes, lectures, meetings, receptions, seminars, and other events. It’s black millwork panels conceal storage areas, flex space, and marker boards, and the custom interior shutters are a modern interpretation of a traditional New Orleans feature that provides complete control over natural light.