Allen Eskew, FAIA, a New Orleans architect whose work helped to shape the city's waterfront both before and after Hurricane Katrina, died on Tuesday at age 65.
A founding partner at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple in New Orleans, Eskew has worked as a designer and architect for more than 40 years. For one of his earliest projects, he served as the studio director for the 1984 World's Fair in Louisiana, managing a team of architects and practitioners from around the country, among them Frank Gehry, FAIA. Eskew led the design work on the New Orleans waterfront, a site that has defined his career.
"He had a capacity to bring diverse groups together, and build consensus among diverse groups and communities," says Steve Dumez, FAIA, whose first job after architecture school was working under Eskew on the World's Fair project. "He was incredibly thoughtful, an incredible mentor to so many."
The cause of death has not yet been determined, according to The Times-Picayune. Dumez says that his friend and mentor's death came as a shock to the firm.
Eskew studied architecture at Louisiana State University and the University of California, Berkeley. Some of his notable projects include the Audubon Institute Aquarium of the Americas as well as the restoration of the Superdome and the design of its attendant Champions Square, both of which were completed after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Eskew launched a firm with three partners in 1986; the practice, which evolved into Eskew+Dumez+Ripple in 2000, has stayed close to its French Quarter roots. The firm was transformed in many ways by Katrina, as the firm's founders explained to ARCHITECT in an interview last year. Early after the storm, Dumez says, Eskew led a team of designers tasked with envisioning a stronger urban fabric for the New Orleans waterfront. Eskew and his team completed a master plan for a more than 6-mile-long stretch of riverfront. The firm is just finishing the first phase of implementing the master plan: Crescent Park, a collaborative effort by Eskew, George Hargreaves, David Adjaye, and Michael Maltzan, FAIA, that features 20 acres of indigenous landscaping and two new pavilions.
Eskew had anticipated finishing several waterfront and citywide projects in the run-up to the New Orleans tricentennial in 2018, as he told ARCHITECT in last year. “The core riverfront is emerging as a major piece of the tricentennial personality,” Eskew said. “The core of our city is going to be in good shape for the tricentennial.”
That work will continue in the same spirit, and by the same spirit that Eskew outlined, Dumez says.
"Allen was a tremendous believer that, in order to realize your future, you have to see it and talk about it and imagine it," he says. "He had been working over the last decade to
put in place a transition and leadership group in the firm that would allow it to move forward. While [his death] comes as an incredible shock, and it was totally unanticipated, he would argue that one of his greatest design acts was building a practice of talented individuals who could work with him, and could work without him."
His family is planning a private memorial service, but there will a public tribute to Eskew's work and legacy following the holidays.