Launch Slideshow

profile: byron mouton, aia

profile: byron mouton, aia

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    Will Crocker

    Under Mouton's supervision, URBANbuild students completed their latest prototype in May.

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    Will Crocker

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    Emilie Taylor

    Students working on the prototype.

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    Neil Alexander

    Mouton's own home/studio and this custom home is by bildDESIGN.

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    bildDESIGN

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    bildDESIGN

Byron Mouton, AIA, never intended to stay in his hometown of New Orleans. He left for graduate school at Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., then worked in Europe for a couple of years. On his way to San Francisco for a job interview in 1997, he stopped to see his family in the Crescent City and stayed for good. He started teaching at the architecture school at Tulane, his undergraduate alma mater, and eventually opened his own small studio, called bildDESIGN. For years he had trouble finding many clients who desired the modern, progressive houses he envisioned, but not anymore. “Many recent building types that we relied on [before Hurricane Katrina] didn't work so well,” he says. “People are more willing to do things differently.”

Now Mouton's challenge lies in keeping bildDESIGN's work affordable to its middle-class clients. “We're forced to have that mission because we don't have a large wealthy population here,” he says. He and his collaborators—Julie Charvat, Cordula Roser, Emilie Taylor, and Seth Welty—adapt traditional New Orleans house types such as the shotgun, the camelback, and the Creole cottage to current lifestyles and modern tastes. They keep the floor plans as efficient as possible and often use off-the-shelf materials to stretch clients' budgets. Limiting costs still poses difficulties, though, due to the high price of insurance, materials, and raising a home's first floor off the ground. “What used to cost just over $100 per square foot here now costs $150,” Mouton says. Good contractors are also expensive and elusive, but luckily his cousin, Tony Christiana, is a skilled local builder.

Along with his practice, Mouton acts as co-director of Tulane URBANbuild, which provides community design services to neighborhoods severely damaged by Katrina. He oversees the design/build portion of the program, in which Tulane students create and eventually construct a house in partnership with a nonprofit agency. The first URBANbuild house was stick-built last summer, and the second one—finished in May—consists of panelized steel. He and his students see the homes as prototypes for relatively affordable housing in New Orleans; at some point, they hope to make the plans widely available.


rethinking, renewing, rebuilding

special report on rebuilding the gulf coast two years after katrina's devastation.

  • cover story: after the storm

    In this report, we've endeavored to illuminate the good and the bad, the true signs of hope and the harsh realities of its absence. Over and over, Gulf Coast architects emphasize that people around the country need to know what's really going on in this still-devastated but still-compelling area.

     
  • project: cottage industry

    When 170-some New Urbanists convened the Mississippi Renewal Forum in Biloxi, Miss., to brainstorm the Gulf Coast reconstruction, they knew it would be a long row to hoe. Two years and dozens of charrettes later, work is still under way to rewrite planning codes that support thoughtful, mixed-use...

     
  • project: house mates

    Design professionals agree that rebuilding in the Gulf Coast region is frustrating. Despite soaring construction costs and insurance premiums, elusive government funding, and inscrutable building codes—or perhaps because of them—the nonprofit Architecture for Humanity (AFH) launched the Biloxi...

     
  • project: upwardly mobile

    After working in private practice for nine years, architect Michael A. Berk shifted gears in 1990 to become a professor and researcher. His new pursuit ultimately led him to explore affordable and ecologically based factory-built housing in the rural Southeast and Delta regions, where the dynamics...

     
  • profile: marcel wisznia, aia

    When people talk about good things happening in downtown New Orleans, the name Marcel Wisznia, AIA, tends to come up. That's because this local architect/developer has completed one of the few projects built there since Hurricane Katrina—The Union Lofts, a mixed-use renovation in the Central...

     
  • profile: wayne troyer, aia

    In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans architect Wayne Troyer, AIA, bounced between friends' houses in Alabama and Louisiana. All the while, he frantically awaited the latest news of his home city. “I e-mailed like crazy ... we were all trying to regain our sanity,” he recalls. When he...