How does one decide they will be an architect? Trust me when I say it shouldn’t be about the money.
It wasn’t until my second year of college while flunking biology I found my path to architecture. My father is a contractor, a craftsman, a problem solver with a DIY mind set. I grew up using his drafting tools to draw up fake floor plans in his office that smelled like saw dust. So it was only natural that my heart gravitated towards a creative field in lieu of the field of science. My mind just didn’t work that way. As I walked through the halls of LSU ARCH School, I immediately was sucked in. I had found my passion but still did not realize what being an architect really meant. Fast forward to 2005. After years of all-nighters, blood, sweat and tears I made it to fifth year of ARCH school and graduation day was just around the corner. I had a few opportunities to move with friends up north with dreams of working for a large firm and designing large commercial projects.
Then Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. I grew up 45 min away from the city and had family and friends that lost everything. Their experiences were horrendous and life changing. It hit me hard and I felt moving up north meant abandoning my community and my family. My professors tried to convince me to move out of state where I could practice the modern architecture I studied but my mind was set. I just couldn’t leave. So after graduating, I took a job at Howard Performance Architecture in downtown New Orleans 9 months post Katrina. My dog and I moved into an apartment on a street still vacant and destroyed. The mail still wasn’t being delivered and trash pickup only occurred maybe once every other week. My neighbors were 2 raccoons in an abandoned trashed house. My dog hated it and at times I asked myself, what the heck am I doing?
One of the first clients I had the pleasure of working with was the Archdiocese of New Orleans to repair and rebuild the Our Lady of Prompt Succor school buildings in St. Bernard Parish. Their buildings flooded and the Early Learning Center was condemned due to severe structural damage; one side completely caved in. St. Bernard was first flooded from the east and north as the levees were overtopped and damaged (MRGO levees sustained the heaviest damage from the storm). After the break in the Industrial Canal, water poured in from the west. The IPET report contained high water marks up to 21 feet. Out of the thousands of buildings in the parish, only a handful were salvageable afterwards. Out of 26,900 homes, less than a half dozen were left habitable.
The firm orchestrated the renovation of several buildings and the design of a new early learning center, a new middle school building and a new chapel. After being in temporary classroom trailers for nearly 6 years, the school’s long recovery process has finally come to an end. The children’s moral was restored and now they run freely on the playground with huge smiles on their face.