The Pythian Honored By Prestigious AIA Award


NEW ORLEANS — The American Institute of Architects (AIA) New Orleans Chapter recently bestowed a 2018 Design Award to The Pythian. A jury of Charleston, South Carolina architects judged the submissions, and presented the Honor Award to The Pythian in the category of Historic Preservation, Restoration + Adaptive Reuse.

“Getting recognized by a group of one’s peers is quite a compliment,” says Wayne Troyer, partner and design director for studioWTA, the architectural firm behind The Pythian’s restoration.

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In order to renovate The Pythian, architects had to restore not one but two building façades along with all of the connecting interior spaces. The Pythian Temple building, corner of Loyola Avenue and Gravier Street, was originally constructed in 1909 using brick masonry, ornamental terra cotta and cast stone, and then an adjacent building on Gravier Street, was built in 1925. The two buildings were conjoined and unified with a modern-era slipcover screen during a 1961 renovation.

After discussions with the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks Service, it was determined that the corner building should be restored to its original design and the Gravier building to the International Style, which has monolithic skin of glass and panels.

The resulting contrasting façades add to the building’s allure and its historical significance says Troyer.

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“When you look at the building, it’s quite a juxtaposition of styles, and reveals how our city evolved over time,” Troyer says.

There were also a number of significant interior elements that were restored and preserved during The Pythian’s redevelopment.

“On the interior very little of the original fabric remained so we took great care in preserving or restoring each element that did remain which included barrel vault ceilings from a one-time dance hall, built-up and riveted steel angle columns, and an ornamental exit stair, “says Julie Babin, partner at studioWTA and the project architect.

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After securing a variance from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the original ornamental iron staircase was incorporated as a primary exit, showcasing the art of metal craftsmanship that is seldom seen in today’s construction.

Structurally, the Pythian is composed of load-bearing brick walls and structural steel columns.

“The riveted steel angles were elegant and beautiful but too slender to meet current loading requirements. Rather than encasing the columns in concrete for strength, the team worked with an engineer to develop a steel reinforcing strategy that blends seamlessly with the language and design intent of the original riveted angels. Looking at the columns today it’s hard to know which steel elements are original and which are new,” Babin says.

The restored and modified columns were coated with intumescent paint to meet the building’s fire rating.

The honor award is the highest recognition given by AIA.

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