Wednesday, November 28, 2007

VJAA's Tulane University project
I plan to visit New Orleans in 2008. One of the stops on my list is the new Lavin-Bernick Student Center at Tulane University, pictured above and below. Designed by Vincent James Associates Architects (VJAA) of Minneapolis, the $28 million renovation of the student center was nearly a decade in the making. The project was delayed by a lack of funding after 9/11 and flooding from Hurricane Katrina.

To non-architects, $28 million may sound like plenty of money for a building makeover, but in this instance, James and Yoos say they had a tight budget. Based on the size of the student center, the $28 million worked out to about $185 per square foot. A new building would have cost the university in the neighborhood of $300 per square foot.

The architects and client both wanted the building to be as green as possible. And they wanted the building to have what so many other New Orleans houses, hotels and public buildings possess — a connection between the inside and exterior environment. So how does achieve those objectives (and frugally) in steamy New Orleans?

VJAA opted for a complex and modern shading system that allows people inside the building to see what's happening outside and keeps out too much direct sunlight, which heats up the inside unnecessarily.

The pair were also inspired by the film classic Lawrence of Arabia. While the rest of us watched Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif and the vast desert, James and Yoos were fixated on the fans during the movies few interior scenes.

Yes, the fans.

"That's so beautiful to see a building with this slow movement that is continuous," James says. "Maybe our building could actually be constantly moving. So you look at it from the outside and you sense that slow pulsing of the fans. So it became a major part of the experience."

VJAA principals Vincent James and Jennifer Yoos are sure to discuss the project on Thursday night when they appear at the Walker Art Center's Drawn Here design lecture. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the McGuire Theatre.

You can listen to an interview with Minnesota architects Vincent James and Jennifer Yoos discussing the project at podlounge or podcast alley. You can also subscribe to the Building Minnesota podcast at iTunes. It's free!

1 comment:

James said...

Reminds me of the Nordic Embassy in Berlin: