changing ecologies

team fontenot masek



double family house, two three bedroom apartments, project phase.

two reciprocal, crossing diagrams define the basic scheme of this double family house in the historic district of new orleans. one showing the full presence of the backyard filled with trees, softly reducing and changing its impact on the house as progressing to the urban side of it. in the opposite direction, the urban character of the house is strongest at the street while fading out as it approaches the backyard.

based on the conviction, that a maximized presence of nature, breeze, light, cooling, natural ventilation, court yards, porches, street life, simple construction, flat roofs are not only historic and anchored values once developed in the french quarter, we reinterpret these "pillars" of new orleanean culture in the actual and future context of the city, translating, revealing, updating and developing the partially forgotten past into a new possible future of living.

while being presented to the hdoc - historic district office committee - of new orleans and highly appreciated by it as the expression of what exactly the historic district of new orleans needs in july 2001, the project underlines the following qualities:

each of the three bedroom apartments are once in touch with the ground and once with the upper levels - one is on the ground at the street and on the upper levels in the backyard and vice versa.

the presence of nature is defined through the backyard and two changing and mutating - according to differing spaces and conditions of growth of a possible vegetation - patios. the one in the middle of the house is illuminated in different ways by the morning, midday and evening sun, for this patio is spatially defined through the alternating change of levels of the apartments, producing reciprocal, inclined roofs, facilitating the different characters of the courtyard as the day goes by. the third patio - close to the street - is the most intimate one, experienced only by the family living on the second floor, while separating on the first floor through inaccessible mass a highly street oriented side of the apartment from the main bedroom, facing the middle court yard, which is visually, physically and exclusively accessible only from this bedroom. in the second floor this courtyard close to the street provides the possibility to have a wide, spanned space, divided by the crown of vegetation in the patio, separating the living room from the bedroom, while at the same time connecting them visually across this space of contemplation, open to the ground and the sky. the vegetation of the patios is going to be developed according to the very special conditions of each of them.

as the distance between house is only 6 feet, the neighboring buildings are going to be used as a shading device, offering the opportunity to introduce new and translucent materials while preserving an optimal climate and temperature.

the construction used is the typical balloon frame method, practiced everywhere near new orleans and guaranteeing a straightforward cost control. how to clad the balloon frame structure is where the new material, techniques, ideas and functions are going to come alive.

the apartments intertwine spatially but highly preserve the privacy of each family. the only place where they all meet, is the backyard. all the other outdoor spaces are visually and physically accessible only through one family or even only part of one family - as the bedroom on the first floor facing the middle patio. each circulation system of an apartment therefore automatically ends on a public terrace in the backyard, as the interrelation of the street and the nature in the backyard is the backbone of the concept changing ecologies.