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 finally made his way back to New Orleans and located his staff, they worked out of his house in the Lower Garden District for six months while their Warehouse District office underwent repairs [click here for more on Wayne Troyer Architects' studio space].
Throughout the chaotic post-storm period, up through today, the 16-year-old firm hasn't lacked for commissions. “We've been helping a lot of former clients with flood damage,” Troyer says. They've also designed a homeless recovery center in downtown New Orleans that will open this month, as well as several under-construction remodels and new houses.
He's particularly excited about two on-the-boards, multifamily projects in the 9th Ward's Bywater neighborhood, where he grew up. One, known as ICInola and developed by Shea Embry and Cam Mangham, is a four-building, mixed-use complex that adapts a former meat-packing plant into loft condominiums, townhomes, and ground-floor retail. Troyer and the developers kept the scale of the project low to blend in with the surrounding houses and industrial buildings. The environmentally conscious design also includes vegetated roofs and solar panels. The other project—Rice Mill Lofts for developer Sean Cummings—will contain 60 loft apartments and retail in an old rice factory next to the Mississippi River. “The river is a great asset,” Troyer says. “[Riverfront land] is on higher ground, so it can take a lot of density. The best way to rebuild is to maximize the areas that are most protected by the flood-control system.”
Troyer balances his taste for modern architecture with an admiration for New Orleans' older homes and buildings. He's brought his talent for sleek, contemporary interventions in historic structures to the city's nonprofit Preservation Resource Center (PRC), with which he's worked on many restoration and renovation projects. In addition to the PRC, Troyer has made a habit of pairing with top out-of-state firms. His studio has collaborated with Minneapolis' Vincent James Associates Architects and Atlanta's Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects on various projects at Tulane University, for example. Post-Katrina, he served on the Frederic Schwartz, FAIA-led neighborhood planning team for the Unified New Orleans Plan. And he feels local architects banded together after the storm in a way they hadn't before. “There's very much a sense of community,” he says. “Normally architects are very independent, but after the storm, people were helping firms get back on their feet.”