Four years ago, The Independent Weekly launched The INDesign Awards to honor the most innovative and thoughtful architecture, historic preservation projects and interior design in Acadiana. In its best and purest form, architecture reflects a community’s history and values and incorporates the past into forward-thinking designs for modern living.
For our fourth annual INDesign Awards, projects completed in the 2007 calendar year were eligible, and entries were judged by Beth Miller of Mississippi State University and Geoff Gjertson of UL Lafayette. For a complete list of winners and the bios of Miller and Gjertson, see P. 19.
Five projects earned gold awards this year, and The Independent is proud to shine a spotlight on these honorees.
DESIGN TAKES FLIGHT
Donald Breaux’s charge was to build an airplane hangar for a company jet. Knight Oil Tools commissioned him to design a hangar for Knight Aviation that would also include a couple of offices for the pilots as well as a small lounge and lobby. But the challenge was designing a hangar at the Lafayette Regional Airport that might be able to house a large jet on a small piece of property — only 150 feet deep and 225 feet wide.
“It’s designed for a plane larger than they have,” Breaux says. The building is 40 feet tall, with more than 11,300 square feet of space, with the bulk of the space — 10,000 square feet — devoted to the hangar. “The lot’s very small,” Breaux says. “We didn’t have enough space to have sliding doors. We had a limited site. So they chose a bi-fold door for the entry door. It’s 88 feet wide by 35 feet high. That was the basis for the height.”
Aided by the team of Kenneth Bedenbaugh and Jeff Gonsoulin, Breaux says his design of the building came from the plane itself. “Our concept was that we had started thinking about the aerodynamics of a plane and its wings,” he says. “The wing was included in our design and the curve of the building. We wanted to have some reference to aviation. It just led to that kind of thinking on our part — the relationship of the airplane itself to this building. How do you relate those two things and make some statement about the plane and the hangar? That relationship was an important factor. The plane and its shape and feeling of being streamlined led us to that.”
Breaux has worked with Knight in the past, most notably on his design of its corporate headquarters. “They give us the opportunity to do something nice,” Breaux says, “which is quite something for a client to give you that opportunity to do a nice building. They let us do the job, and we go about it according to what their needs are.”
Built with burnished concrete block and metal roofing, the building is painted in a blue and grey color scheme, which reflects the parent company’s corporate identity as well as the corporate headquarters. “They tell me when they fly into Lafayette,” he says with a laugh, “they can certainly see that big blue door. They know where the hangar is!”
Breaux’s a frequent flyer in the INDesign Awards. He won a gold medal in commercial architecture and design in 2006 for Knight’s corporate headquarters and another gold in historic preservation for his work with renovating the old Ford Motor Co. building in Crowley.
“We’re very fortunate,” Breaux says. “We’ve been very blessed. I’m 72 years old, and it seems like in my old age I’ve been fortunate to have a number of awards over the last few years. But those are opportunities you rarely get on some of these projects. Thank God we’ve had some really good clients. The client has a lot to do with the opportunities we’re getting. Our position is to try and make it good architecture.”
While other men his age may have long since retired, Breaux says he has no such intentions. “I’m enjoying architecture,” he says. “It’s been all of my life.” — R. Reese Fuller
EVERYBODY IN THE POOL
Inspired to have muscles as big as his “Uncle Harold’s,” this skinny red-headed kid went on to earn a Mr. America title in 1960. A few years later, Red Lerille parlayed that dream into what the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association says is now the No. 1 independent health club in America.
In 1963 muscle man Lerille’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and he took hand-made equipment he’d built in his garage and opened a 4,000-square-foot health club, moving two years later to his current Doucet Road location. It’s been a long 45 years of hard work toward becoming the nation’s top independent club — years filled with construction project after construction project.
Red Lerille’s Health & Racquet Club’s Doucet Road site now encompasses 20 acres and an astonishing 165,000 square feet. Since the early 1970s, one architect has been an integral part of every bit of dirt that’s been turned, every space that’s been re-configured, every new brick that’s been laid, every wall that’s been erected. And even when architect Donald Breaux isn’t involved with an addition or renovation, there’s still work going on. Lerille’s long-held philosophy of upgrading and reinvesting in his club has paid off, the club now boasting 9,300 memberships (a mind-boggling 16,000 members). “I was talking to Red today, and he’s changing out equipment, some bikes,” Breaux says. “Heck, they looked like they were new to me.”
Perhaps the most impressive renovation to date — in terms of function as well as visual effect — is the architectural firm’s recent work integrating an indoor pool with an existing children’s swimming pool (which is more like a mini-waterpark consisting of a zero entry pool, lazy river and large water slide) and a junior Olympic pool. Above the pool a large space consisting of several fitness rooms was also added.
Here’s what the architect was faced with: At one end of the facility was the children’s pool, slide and locker space built in 2004 and at the other the Olympic pool, so the challenge was to give the area a cohesive feel. Breaux’s approach was to open up the space with glass walls, creating a transparency that makes the three distinct spaces feel like one large space. Construction consisted of concrete block walls, insulated glass curtain walls and glass block. Flooring for the pool area included ceramic tile and rubber, with bamboo flooring in the halls and some of the other exercise areas.
On the bottom level, round steel columns and steel trusses support laminate wood beams and wood decking for the second floor fitness rooms. On the second floor, Breaux further opened up the space by incorporating laminate wood trusses to support wood decking and a standing seam metal roof, which has a 9-foot overhang at the east and west curtain walls to provide shading from the hot summer sun.
The indoor pool area is air-conditioned, and what you’ll immediately notice when entering the space is the lack of a chlorine smell, as a special system was incorporated to eliminate chemical odors. The area actually consists of two pools that are heated to different temperatures, one kept warmer for water aerobics and aqua jogging. In addition, there is a small cold plunge — often used for rehabbing injured athletes or for cooling off after a long jog.
Breaux is pleased with the aesthetics, as well as the overall ambiance and functionality of the spaces. “We feel like we accomplished our goal,” he says. “And that only happens when you have good clients.”
True to form, as soon as the indoor pool was complete, Lerille turned his attention back to the existing outdoor Olympic pool. “He re-did that whole pool,” Breaux says.
Since that time, Lerille expanded the family gym to include cardio equipment, added a stretching area, and even built a full-size boxing ring. Yes, a boxing ring — with former world-champion boxer “Bad” Chad Broussard offering personal training.
“I don’t think there will be a time when he won’t be doing something,” Breaux says. “I think he’ll always update. He just wants the club to be as good as it can be.” — Leslie Turk
Michelle Thibodeaux of Angelle Architects respects raw materials. Fire-scorched brick and saw-marked beams might call to some designers for a dropped ceiling and smooth plaster job, but to Thibodeaux the earthy elements sparked an interior restoration that was largely hands-off when it came to touching rustic walls and hewn pine trusses. In creating a second story apartment out of what once was warehouse space for the 1920s Patin Pharmacy building in downtown Breaux Bridge, Thibodeaux concentrated on implementing a sleek space without interrupting the existing, historic surfaces. The result is a harmonious relationship between the old and the new to create a comfortable living space that embraces the comforts of modern living.
“We started with a blank slate,” says Thibodeaux of the 1,400-square-foot space. “It never was anything before, just a warehouse. For design purposes it was an empty canvas.” The upper story over Cajun Microwaves consisted of a long, empty rectangle with three windows on each of the short walls, one facing Breaux Bridge’s Main Street and the other the backyard of a block of commercial buildings. Thibodeaux worked with the firm’s principal architect, Glenn Angelle, to design both front and rear balconies, and to turn some of the large windows into doors that open into useful outdoor space. Because of the shared walls running from front to back, there was little interior natural light. To add to the puzzle, the roof rises to a 17-foot peak supported by an open structure of old pine trusses. Into all that headroom, Thibodeaux needed to put electricity, air conditioning ducts, plumbing, cable and security lines. It would have been easy to drop the ceiling and have room to run all the utilities. Instead, she took the hard route. “I love the trusses,” she says. “You can see the mark of the saw on the wood. Some still have bark on them. I was determined not to touch them.”
Six skylights, cut into the high ceiling, stream pools of sunlight into the space. To run power lines without visible conduits, Thibodeaux bridged the gaps between trusses with additional pine beams and laid her power lines on top. Deep baseboards set two inches out from the brick walls contain more hidden wiring for electrical outlets. Air conditioning ducts are hidden in the interior walls, while the vents placed high above are nearly invisible. Inconspicuous track lighting blends into the overhead wooden truss structure, adding illumination without calling attention to the lighting.
The front of the apartment is devoted to living room space which effortlessly blends into a sleek kitchen and dining area. Thibodeaux built a wall out of ebony stained cabinets and a stainless steel refrigerator, which divides the front living space from the bedroom. The built-in dining bar continues with the brushed steel theme. Cooking and dining space exhibits a cool sensibility with flush panel cabinets and contemporary hardware, in contrast to the rough texture of the brick walls and polished pine floors. “The point was to create a contrast between what was historic, and what is new,” Thibodeaux says. “We never wanted to try to copy the old way of building. I want you to see the distinction between what the craftsmen from the 1920s did and what we are doing now.” Behind the working kitchen wall, down a hall where the antique brick is lit to hang art, the bedroom and bath are cozily enclosed, to separate private from public space.
The bath has a clean masculine feel to it, with rectangular wall tile, glass block counter tops and a square white porcelain sink. The tub is deep and large, great for soaking. “Guys like showers,” she says. Instead of the handheld shower normally added to a free-standing tub, Thibodeaux ran plumbing through the enclosure over the tub to place a shower head dead center overhead for a waterfall experience.
Because of the truss ceiling, the bedroom is acoustically open to the living and dining space. Thibodeaux took a heavy wooden warehouse door, mounted it on overhead sliding track and bolted on industrial hardware. This huge rustic bedroom door, closed, provides psychological privacy. Windows and doors lead to the rear balcony to bring skyscapes right into the bedroom, and an airy feel from front to back of the apartment. The entire effect of the adaptive use is both clean and warm, successfully updating a storage attic into comfortable living space. — Mary Tutwiler
GO WITH THE FLOW
When MidSouth Bank found its executive offices in need of expanded meeting space and technological upgrades, it opted to go the extra mile in creating an ideal workspace. MidSouth Bank Senior Executive Vice President/COO Karen Hail tapped the bank’s longtime interior designer Heather Trosclair, of Innovative Intelligent Design, to lead a sweeping renovation of the downtown Versailles Centre’s fifth floor — a project that also included architect James Broussard.
To create the kind of transformation the bank was seeking, the center’s fifth floor was completely gutted of its interior walls and offices. (The fifth floor formerly housed the Onebane Law Firm, which relocated from the building three years ago). With a clean slate, designers went about creating a much more open, naturally flowing workspace. Trosclair also made maximum use of large sliding glass doors, windows and translucent panels to filter in natural light throughout the interior of the suite. She used translucent panels to soften and filter the overhead fluorescent lighting.
“In most office buildings you have fluorescent light,” Trosclair says. “We wanted it to have a different type of feeling so we did add some different kind of lighting, recessed and specialty lighting. That kind of gives you a mood immediately. Even the interior spaces have a feeling that you’re in window space.”
Stepping off the elevator onto the fifth floor, the change of atmosphere is apparent, and visitors have commented that it almost feels like stepping into another building altogether. The elevator lobby is lined with clear maple wood panels, with overhead fixtures that soften and filter the overhead lights. The main reception area is surrounded with glass walls and doors and features the bank’s corporate green color in a marble slab on the greeting station.
“We talked a lot,” says Hail, “about the use of wood, and glass and lighting and how we were going to take an interior space and open it up to where if you came to visit, you would feel the kind of warmness and openness of our culture, of who we are.” Hail says she’s received a wealth of compliments on the renovation, including the building’s cleaning crew noting that they hadn’t seen anything like it in Lafayette.
Trosclair brought in a variety of lighter maple wood and ebony stained cherry furniture, often contrasting the warm, dark colors with lighter fabrics. The executive board room features a V-shaped table facing a lecturn, two 50-inch TV monitors, and a pull-down projection screen for video conferencing. Laptops are set up across the board table, and MidSouth’s executive meetings are now completely paperless.
“It’s truly a work environment,” Hail says. [Trosclair] comes to a project looking at the practical part, which is a great thing in business. [She asks,] is it going to work, not just, ‘Is it going to look good?’ The vision that I had in my mind, she exceeded that with what she came up with.”
For her part, Trosclair credits MidSouth for making the project one of the most gratifying she’s worked on. “You don’t get to do those types of projects in Lafayette very often,” she says. “And the client is the one that can make a project like that. We have a working relationship. I know what they like, they trusted everything I suggested, and I think it shows in the final project.” — Nathan Stubbs
LOBBYING FOR SUCCESS
When Pécot & Company Architects landed the job of designing the Camellia Towers II building at the corner of Camellia Boulevard and Kaliste Saloom Road, the office complex didn’t have any confirmed tenants. But with its appeal as an office complex anchor to the bustling River Ranch development, it didn’t take long for local business heavyweights IberiaBank and Van Eaton & Romero to sign on as first-floor occupants, with Allen & Gooch law firm and the CPA firm of Darnall, Sikes, Gardes & Frederick following suit upstairs. The architectural firm’s design and subsequent collaboration with New Orleans architectural/interior designer firm Chrestia Staub Pierce conveys an image any business owner would embrace: strong and contemporary, with personal, welcoming touches.
The exterior design of Camellia Towers provided inspiration for the interior. A street-side driveway allows front entry to the building, but Pécot & Company placed the parking lot behind the building to keep the front facade uncluttered. To convey an ordered and flowing sense of connectivity, the firm adapted a New Orleans shotgun-style house layout for the lobby and used glass doors and large glass windows to let natural light flow in from both sides. “The lobby connects the front and back, and you know where you are at all times,” says architect Kirby Pécot. “There’s a lot of clear direction and no confusion there.”
Ray Boudreaux of Pécot & Company tweaked the firm’s initial design and used the same technique to seamlessly integrate IberiaBank and Van Eaton & Romero’s operations. “The hard walls went away and the butt glazing — a thicker, tempered glass going uninterrupted from the floor to the ceiling — came into place,” Pécot says. As a result, visitors can stroll to the center of the lobby, peer through the glass to their right or left and see the IberiaBank and Van Eaton & Romero offices humming. The elevated ceiling also contributes to the open, large feel of the space.
The widespread use of glass is complemented by walls and columns that evoke power and durability. “The materials are very monumental — granite and marble,” says Pécot. The gold elevator doors are surrounded by a beige marble, and the regal archway above the elevator doors is a prime example of the process undertaken by Pécot and Boudreaux of the local firm in collaboration with New Orleans architect John Chrestia and interior designer Sandy Staub. “The ceramic tile floor and the white marble around the base of the room forms the surround around the elevator doors, and we picked the ash and cherry wood [for the elevator archway],” says Staub. “It matches the walls.
“Kirby had done some schematic design and had established that they’d have wood in that space and stone on the floor,” continues Staub. “We came in and developed the idea, staying with hard flooring and wood walls, but rather than go with typical wood tone, we used a taupe grey wash. The finish on the wood in contrast to the white marble makes it all pop.”
In addition to subtle recessed lighting, Chrestia and Staub installed elegant and classy circular hanging light fixtures that evoke images of a mansion’s parlor. “We needed to get lighting in there that takes it away from the ordinary,” says Staub, “that gives it a bit of a residential feel.” Playing off the circular cove that Pécot had designed in the center of the ceiling, Chrestia and Staub’s stone patterns on the floor followed that same circular pattern. “Then we went with a metallic silver-gold finish to give a glow to it,” says Staub.
The completed project reflects the architecture and design team’s vision for the space. “We wanted it to have a distinct contemporary feeling and look to it,” says Chrestia. “Not over the top or minimalistic, but contemporary.”
Notes Staub, “What we did in the interior is we made it work with the exterior. It was a nice collaboration between architect and interior designer, and in a lot of cases here, it’s hard to know where the architect ends and the interior designer begins. It was a seamless collaboration.”
— Scott Jordan
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