Launch Slideshow

930 Poydras Street

930 Poydras Street

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    Timothy Hursley

    930 Poydras Street, in New Orleans, by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple.

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    Courtesy Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

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    Courtesy Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

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    Timothy Hursley

    Residents access the ninth floor lobby by elevators from the ground floor (which let out in the red-curtained alcove) and then they must walk through the space to transfer to another bank of elevators to reach the apartments. The circulation path allows for chance interactions with other residents, creating a firmer sense of community in a city unused to high-rise living. Pop colors and exposed concrete surfaces give the interior a modern feel that targets the mainly young tenants, and glass doors lead out to the pool area.

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    Timothy Hursley

    The sky lobby cantilevers out from the main structure and offers views of the Louisiana Superdome, City Hall, and Lake Pontchartrain. Lounge furniture and high-top tables help create a space for informal events.

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    Courtesy Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

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    Courtesy Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

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    Courtesy Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

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    Courtesy Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

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    Timothy Hursley

    The sky lobby is not the only lounge space in the complex: The ninth-floor deck features a pool, terraced seating and chaises for sunbathing, and a grilling area for resident use.

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    Timothy Hursley

    Private outdoor space for the two-story townhouses opens out onto the pool deck but is kept separate from public circulation areas by plank fences and tall planters. The view up to the L-shaped residential tower shows the variegated façade: On these habitable levels, there are more glass panels per floor than on the parking levels below. This is in order to admit light into, and city views out of, the apartments.

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    Timothy Hursley

    Inside, the apartments have simple, loftlike floor plans that afford city views from the living spaces and bedrooms. Finishes are spare, consisting of gypsum walls, polished concrete floors, and sliding polycarbonate panels that divide the rooms. About two-thirds of the apartments are one-bedroom units; the others have two bedrooms.

Few American cities embody “place” quite like New Orleans, where European, African, and Caribbean traditions are blended in a kind of cultural jambalaya. The city’s architecture reflects this same multiculturalism, particularly in the French Quarter, which still bears the lasting imprint of Spanish rulers. Their insistence on masonry construction produced an explosion of Creole townhouses—buildings with thick, solid walls punctuated by breezeways leading to courtyards, fountains, and lush interior gardens.

These European antecedents of the old city were inspiration for lead design architect Steve Dumez, whose design for a new high-rise apartment tower at 930 Poydras Street draws on the building patterns of the city’s historic quarter—and their social implications. “New Orleans really does not have a tradition of urban, high-rise living,” says Dumez, design director at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. “So we looked at the French Quarter to reinterpret the notion of a shared, semi-private domain for a small community.”

His scheme for the 21-story apartment building in the city’s business district does just that, seeking to create a sense of community among its residents. In this case, however, people proceed to the semi-private realm along a vertical, rather than horizontal, path. Placed on top of a rectangular podium consisting of eight levels of parking, the L-shaped residential tower consolidates tenant amenities on the ninth floor. This level functions like the inner courtyard of a Creole townhouse—a shared space that is the social heart of the complex.

Anchoring the ninth floor is the sky lobby, a dramatic glass box that cantilevers off the building façade. This double-height lounge—which features polished concrete floors, bar counters set into bright yellow walls, and informal groupings of furniture—serves as an extension of tenants’ living spaces. It also houses the elevators serving the residential floors.

Outside the sky lobby is the pool deck, with tiered seating rising alongside the narrow pool. Tucked beneath the bleachers is the facility’s fitness center. Five two-story townhouses create an architectural edge along the south side of the deck, producing the effect of a courtyard on the garage rooftop.

In order to make the project work financially, Dumez had to scale back his vision for an all-glass tower. Exhaustive cladding studies resulted in 35 percent glass coverage on the skin. “It was an interesting dilemma,” admits Dumez, who turned the limitation into a design opportunity. He devised an animated fenestration pattern with tinted, low-E glass arranged in a field of slate gray steel panels. Most of the glass is concentrated on the upper floors to bring light into the apartments.

As the project advanced through the planning process, city staffers lobbied to include ground-level retail along Poydras Street. “We had absolutely no concerns with that,” Dumez says. “We think it provides a better urban condition and a better streetscape.” Three retail spaces were included, and a restaurant already occupies one of them.

Although it looks backward to the fabric of 19th century New Orleans, 930 Poydras demonstrates that good urbanism is alive and well in the 21st century, too.