Reconstructing New Orleans through Deconstruction

Reconstructing New Orleans through Deconstruction

Located in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, 5200 Dauphine was a storied, if not derelict, building post-Katrina. The 100-year old “camelback shotgun,” a two–story adaptation of the famous NOLA housing prototype, had acted first as a family residence and later as a neighborhood sandwich shop. The Preservation Resource Center (PRC) originally purchased the property with restoration in mind. However, years of neglect compounded by the floodwaters following Katrina left the bones of the building unsalvageable.

For a nonprofit whose mission is to rebuild historic buildings in blighted areas, the idea of razing the structure to build anew was unsettling. Architect Wayne Troyer of studio WTAoffered an alternative: preservation through deconstruction. By carefully dismantling the building, the project team could preserve and catalogue high quality materials that reduced project costs and spoke of the narrative of the place. Through this effort, nearly 60% of the original building was salvaged.

Set for completion in the next few months, 5200 Dauphine Street, part of the PRC’s Operation Comeback program, will act as the new headquarters for Holy Cross Neighborhood Association. The building aims to be the first LEED Platinum commercial building in Louisiana and a vital hub in the 9th Ward. The design exposes many of the repurposed materials, including indigenous old growth cypress used as internal wainscoting and viewports in the new floor to the old tile floor of the Ruiz Sandwich Store.

Now 5 years post-Katrina, the scale of what still awaits reconstruction is daunting. New Orleans faces the conundrum of the griever: how to properly mourn what was lost while anticipating the inevitable joys of that which still stands. 5200 Dauphine Street offers insight on the potential of reuse in facilitating mass reconstruction efforts but more acutely the project shows how careful treatment of the built environment can honor collective memory. This story is one of many to appear in Public Architecture’s new e-book, The Design for Reuse Primer, free and downloadable at www.designforreuse.org.

Tags: built environmentnew orleanshurricane katrina

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