Celebrate! Architecture in Baton Rouge

Last week I drove up to Baton Rouge to attend the Celbrate Architecture! event hosted by AIA Louisiana. The event was held at the impressive Shaw Center, a new museum designed by New Orleans Architects Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, This year’s theme was “Craft and Materials,” and the guest lecturers were quite impressive: Andrea Leers of Leers Weinzapfel Associates in Boston, Jeanne Gange of Studio Gang Architects in Chicago, and Tom Kundig of Seattle based Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects. Each speaker gave a general overview of their firm’s work and then later focused on a specific project. The speakers themselves were as diverse as the work they represented, but in my opinion, Tom Kundig easily stole the show in both respects. One could tell that this man truly loved architecture – his excitement over his projects was contagious, and he was the only speaker who was asked more questions than he had time to answer. The projects he showed were all very simple and very honest. When concrete was used- in any form- it remained unfished and exposed, steel (not corten) was installed early and left exposed to patina throughout the construction process. Clearly inspred by Scarpa, Kundig’s details were as beautiful as his forms. At his Chicken Point Cabin (pictured), we learn to appreciate the wonderful efficiency of a machine as simple as a hinge on a door. A 19 foot high steel door marks the entrance to this beautiful cabin on a lake. Intimidating perhaps, yet easily operable by the client’s nine year old daughter. A physics nut, Kundig also enjoys developing more elaborate mechanisms, which he joyfully refers to as “gizmos.” Working with Gepetto-like machinists, inventors, and engineers, he showed us simple cranks, with exposed mechanism- stolen from old tractors- that can be operated by a child, but open an enormous steel window, yet are safe guarded to shut down in high winds. another innovative feautre was a pneumatic skylight operated by harnessing the power of the city’s water system, and feeding it through a series of antique valves.
Afterwards, all the cool kids went up to get drinks at the rooftop cocktail bar, and I naturally proceeded to embarass myself. (very much in a sitcom-like fashion) I was talking to some people about how impressive the speakers were -especially kundig- then after giving some half-baked, drunken opinions on his work, I mentioned (somewhat in jest) that now I was even angrier about the rejection letter I got from Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen. ( a little over a year ago, I was considering moving to Seattle) Around this time I noticed everyone looking a little tense, and then someone whispered..”he’s right behind you.” I turned around a little, and indeed standing directly back to back with me was Tom Kundig. He was listening to someone else, but he had to have heard what I said. Luckily, almost everything I said was flattering, but the event was nonetheless a little embarassing. Unfortunately, we soon had to leave andIi didn’t get a chance to talk to Kundig myself.
Walking out of the museum, we noticed a zydeco dance party suspiciously near where we parked. Our fears were validated when we walked up a few more blocks and could see our car in the middle of a thousand people dancing to the cajun rhythms of “Rockin Doopsie.” Another drink and 5 mean-as-hell looking policmen later, we were back on the road to New Orleans…

6 Replies to “Celebrate! Architecture in Baton Rouge”

  1. As a Seattle resident, the opportunity to experience both his presentations and Kundig’s work comes up regularly. My favorite projects of his include the well-covered film studio “The Brain” (see bottom of page), and the Sedgewick Rd. office renovation. His pivoting doors and walls are really cool.

  2. Living in New York, and witnessing, on a daily basis, the inane spectacle that the architectural design field has become in this grotesque cesspit of pretentious egotism, its quite refreshing to step in a big steaming pile of poop and not give a shit because spring is here!

  3. It’s my understanding that the Shaw center design architect was Shwartz/Silver, with Eskew/dumez/ripple as associate architect. Not to take away from EDR, at all, they are quite a design firm (did you see their LA. State Museum also in BR?)I just think credit is also due to Schwartz/Silver…damn carpetbaggers :-)
    Also can’t the AIA come up with something better than Celebrate! Architecture,I’m embarassed.

  4. I was mistaken by giving EDR all the credit. They were they executive architect, but the whole team consisted of EDR, Schwartz/Silver Architects, and Jerry M. Campbell & Associates. It seems like depending on who I ask, i get different answers as to who was the most responsible for the design…

  5. The design architects were Schwartz/Silver from Boston. The nearly 40,000 square feet of U-Profile glass installed at The Shaw Center for the Arts are from Bendheim Wall Systems, the exclusive North American distributor for Lamberts LINIT U-Profile glass. This is an unusual flange outward, rainscreen application of the glass. Marc Fink, BWS, 800-221-7379 X223.

  6. For the Record, Schwartz/Silver Architects designed the Shaw Center for the Arts with Eskew+Dumez+Ripple as Executive Architects and Jerry M. Campbell & Associates as Associated Architects. Schwartz/Silver was invited to submit and then won the commission for the new LSU Museum of Art at Essen Lane. When LSU made the decision to move the Museum to a site in downtown Baton Rouge, Schwartz/Silver was asked to lead the design of the one block development which became the Shaw Center for the Arts. Schwartz/Silver asked E+D+R along with Jerry Campbell (who’s firm had already completed some exterior restoration work on the Auto Hotel’s brick facade) to join the design team to realize the project.
    As cajun in london points out, E+D+R is a very capable design firm when leading their own projects and they were very capable in their support role for the Shaw Center Project.

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