Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans

30
Jun
08

Louisiana Architect Trey Trahan

It’s always enlightening to examine one particular architect’s methods and ways of thought, which Liz Martin has done in a substantial interview with Trey Trahan FAIA of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This comparatively young professional has found himself in the news lately as a person who bears watching — in the best possible way, of course. When asked by the interviewer if he finds a particular project inspirational, he moves the conversation to a different plane by talking about his grandfather, who impressed on him the idea that we’re not just here to suit ourselves, but to help others whenever possible. Trahan says,

My grandfather was a humble and extraordinary person that started with very little and worked very hard, and he did it with such dignity….He was a simple and quiet man that spoke only when he had something to say, but was terribly genuine. It’s the characteristics that I think great architecture possesses.

Trahan was also strongly influenced by the words of Le Corbusier, whose declaration that “creation is a patient search” grounds his philosophy. Trahan summarizes the process:

You learn a little; you work really hard. You learn a little more and then you work harder.

He talks about how easy it is to be taken in by an idea that seems, at first, to be the one, only, and inspired solution. Often, on closer examination, the perfect answer turns out to be more sizzle than steak, and the conscientious creator needs to start over again by re-stating the basics: the program, the uniqueness of the place, the cultural influences at work, and of course the client. Then, more study and testing. To be real and right, architecture has to satisfy on all levels. Simplicity is an important value. In general he feels that most of our lives are impeded by too much clutter.

When asked about how being a Louisiana native has affected his life as an architect, he is enthusiastic about the rich diversity of the area in terms of its population. His firm is working against the perception of Louisiana being something of a backwater where innovation doesn’t show up. He thinks it possible that the state can move into the creative forefront in architecture as well as in other areas.

Trahan describes himself as excited by new materials and processes, and at the same time willing to go back to old materials, for example in the design of Holy Rosary Catholic Church Complex where an elegant solution was found in the combination of an old material with a new process. The needs of the project led to the study of an old, primitive form of concrete called bousillage.

When the original bid for the construction turned out to be more than twice the budget, the firm turned to the new technology of building information modeling and created 3D computer files which a milling company used to produce the cypress boards that form the building. This brought the cost back within range, with the additional benefit of using a material whose interplay with light is very satisfying to the architect and many other who admire the building – including more than 30 magazine editors who included stories about it in their publications.

This project also offered a great opportunity for intensive collaboration, which Trahan sees as very important. Before the Holy Rosary project started, he hosted a day-long meeting with all the contractors and sub-contractors where he impressed upon them the importance of their work not only as handlers of physical construction components, but as artists whose contributions were essential to the aesthetic result.

Perhaps the most socially significant role played by his firm was the renovation of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. This was by many as a vital step in recovery for the whole state of Louisiana, in terms of morale, because it symbolized the rebirth of the city of New Orleans and pointed toward the return of normalcy. Even though the building is not “his” in any sense, Trahan calls this project the most fulfilling experience in his career up to this point.

More recently, the firm has gained media attention as one of those chosen to work on the Make It Right! project, for the rebuilding of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, which has become well-known through the participation of actor Brad Pitt.

SOURCE: ” Trey Trahan Defining Local Architecture at a Variety of Scales” 06/03/08
photo courtesy of raybdbomb , used under this Creative Commons license