This is my Architecture Thesis Project that was done in the Spring of 1989 at Tulane University. This project was featured in The Classicist No. 2 published by the Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture (Now the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America). The text that I wrote for the Classicist No. 2 is as follows:
The New Orleans Museum of Art was built in 1910 to the designs of Lebenbaum & Marx Architects of Chicago. Unlike other museums situated at the edge of urban parks, the building is located well inside New Orleans’ City Park, where it sits within a traffic circle thatterminates the axis of Esplanade Avenue. The museum was therefore designed to be a classical island in a picturesque setting.
In the late 1960s, the museum embarked upon an expansion program that would more than double the amount of gallery space. The expansion was executed in a minimalist expression so as to not compete with the original building. The addition comprised two wings on opposite sides of the building and a larger gallery wing at the rear.
In 1983, the museum held a competition for a second expansion to double again the amount of gallery, administration and curatorial space. My intent was to design an addition that blended in with the original museum building. The precis was that any contemporary mode of expression, such as that utilized for the expansion of 1971, would further compromise the premise of the first building.
The two existing wings flanking each side of the existing building were retained, but were given new facades on the exterior and replanned on the interior. Most of the rear gallery was demolished.
The new rear addition repeats the two pavilions of the original structure, suggesting a square in plan. Within this square rises a new third level that would contain a restaurant, while increasing the monumentality of the original building. The height from the building’s base to the third floor cornice is the same as the central pavilion’s width and depth forming a perfect cube in proportion.
The museum completed its second expansion in 1992. The winning scheme from the 1983 competition was abandoned and the existing building was enlarged with a modernist addition within the existing traffic circle. The vision of a unified, classical museum therefore remains unrealized.
It may have been edited out or it wasn’t mention in the text, but the wining scheme from the 1983 competition proposed that the addition be located outside of the museum traffic circle with a pedestrian bridge that linked it back to the museum. It is a possibility that this scheme was not built because it was outside of the museum’s property and the property acquisition from City Park would have been too complicated.
This project done over 20 years ago is more relevant today because architects commissioned to design additions to traditionally styled buildings are persuaded to design additions that contrast the old style with a newer modernist style, with the result of compromising the entire composition. This project proposed that a building could be expanded the same way that the United States Capitol Building was expanded throughout its history.