The Process of Submerged Experience, 2021 Venice Biennale Exhibit

The Process of Submerged Experience, 2021 Venice Biennale Exhibit

Through our analytical processes of design, NANO’s intention was to transform the provided space by creating a heterogeneous experience that heightens the patron’s perception; empha­sizing the liminal moment between spaces, the relationship of change through time resulting in the experience of existence.

Within the context of site, both micro and macro, the analysis of place will reveal relationships typically unseen creating an experience not experienced.

NANO’s installation challenged patrons to pause and deliberate on how the confluence of space is experienced. 

What happens when we cross over a threshold?

What makes some spaces more comfortable than others?

How does space evoke an atmosphere or feeling?
How does materiality transform space?

Can architecture affect our perception of time?

How can space be sustainable through time?

These questions guided us as we continued to develop and refine our design, which, like all our work, explored answers at every scale – from the detail of a single joint, through the granular lens of New Orleans, to the connection with all of Venice.



THE BUILT EXPERIENCE

SUBMERGED EXPERIENCE is broken down into three primary components:

  1. A ceiling condition which overlays the topographies of New Orleans and Venice, and represents the relationship in 3-D space
  2. A prescribed sequence spatializing the transitional characteristics of space and existence
  3. A visual experience displaying the evolution of culture and tradition of the Mardi Gras Indians

In creating the path through our exhibit, we first began by outlining the physical parameters of our exhibit space. We filmed + mapped out each of our team member’s instinctive, non-directed path through the empty space. Our mappings illustrated various paths and speeds but revealed common moments of interest, which assisted us in informing a portion of the physical construction + guided our approach to the visitor’s experience.

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Use: Municipal / Assembly
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 580,000 SF
Category: Architecture, Commercial, In-Process, Interiors, Municipal

NANO was hired by the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority as the Architect of Record for the Stage 1 Interior Upgrades, marking the “largest contract the [Exhibition Hall Authority] has ever awarded to a Small and Emerging Business”.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (MCCNO) houses an event space that can provide over 1 million contiguous linear feet for their customers, leaving endless possibilities only limited by the show designer’s imagination. Even with this impressive statistic, many convention-goers are drawn to MCCNO largely due to the culture, history and experiences New Orleans has to offer. With this in mind, NANO’s prime design directive takes a two-fold approach: modernize all meeting rooms, corridors, public gathering spaces, and pre-function spaces while incorporating the experience of New Orleans into the facility through food, art, lighting, textures, rhythms, movement, and visitor interactions.

Beginning in 1984, the facility was built in three phases over the course of 10 years; continuity was achieved at the building transitions, but over the years has become disconnected. A key ambition of NANO’s design team is to utilize the inconsistencies as opportunities for improvement, growth, and stability throughout the framework of the facility. NANO identified where the disconnects existed between MCCNO and their end goal before being able to address them and find the inherent opportunities. Interviews with staff were combined with research and on-site observations to identify and address all challenges and considerations.

Currently, NANO is responsible for the improvements of over 580,000 SF of space consisting of first floor lobby areas, pre-function skylight areas, pre-function corridors, and meeting rooms. All doors and storefronts will be replaced as part of the access control and security upgrades, as well as repairs to the Great Hall after Hurricane Ida and converting the Nouvelle Ballroom into additional meeting room spaces.

The team is utilizing the patterns, typical urban Arche types, and the natural forces of the Mississippi River that historically determined our unique urban grid system into the design of the facility. Abstracting typical materiality, exclusive to New Orleans and cultural context, we are producing a heterogenous design strategy for a holistic experience that emulates New Orleans without imitation.

Other crucial goals that are driving the design of the facility are the AIA 2030 Commitment, modernizing infrastructure and technology in a post-COVID environment, promoting local small businesses, cultivating a better connection with the New Orleans community, and strengthening MCCNO’s identity that captures the essence of New Orleans.

The Dead Rabbit

THE DEAD RABBIT

Use: Restaurant
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 5,215 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

When the owners of the Dead Rabbit, an upscale Irish restaurant and bar in New York City, decided to open a second location in New Orleans, they asked NANO to design their new home in a nineteenth-century structure at the heart of the French Quarter.

NANO guided the project through the city’s complex approvals process, restoring and renovating the three-story brick-and-timber townhouse with a design that celebrates both Ireland and New Orleans, bridging the bar’s established aesthetic with the city’s unique history and character.


NANO worked collaboratively with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC) to find creative solutions for preserving the French Quarter’s historic fabric while meeting the client’s needs. Together, we untangled the building’s history of illegal alterations and nonconforming uses, and developed thoughtful strategies for converting the 200-year-old home into a modern restaurant and bar. Our sensitive and surprising interventions included carving out space for a second means of egress, installing ventilation for the commercial kitchen in an existing illegally built dormer, and transforming a questionable roof deck above an existing first-floor addition into a one-of-a-kind French Quarter courtyard.
To give the bar an authentic character, the design showcases the building’s history and architectural artifacts. In addition to restoring the brick facade and its original details, we reworked the idiosyncratic array of street-level openings to accommodate the new program, adding a second entrance for safety and convenience, and painted all trim red to match the Dead Rabbit’s brand. Inside, the original brick walls and original timber joist complement the Dead Rabbit’s signature beadboard and custom millwork. Integrated architectural details bridge the buildings’ past and present, like an original opening with fanlight transom repurposed as a serving window.

Each floor offers a unique dining experience. The first floor is a cozy pub with warm wood paneling and intimate nooks. On the second floor, open tables, along with balcony and courtyard seating, offer a variety of indoor and outdoor dining options. Because the courtyard didn’t contribute to the building’s historic integrity, we were able to make it a distinctly contemporary outdoor dining space – possibly the only one in the Quarter. The third floor features additional balcony seating as well as a private dining room and, due to the unusual existing conditions, the restaurant’s main kitchen.


At times, working on the Dead Rabbit was almost like solving a puzzle. Through creativity and collaboration, we’ve leveraged our expertise with historic buildings to help the Dead Rabbit expand, blending the culture and cuisine of New Orleans and Ireland.

2401 Bienville

2401 Bienville

Use: Commercial/Offices
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 12,600SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

In our first project as developer and architect, NANO restored and reimagined a historic New Orleans church as a performance-based mixed-use complex designed to make a positive impact on the community. Located on a prominent corner lot in a Mid-City neighborhood that lost many residents after Hurricane Katrina, the former home of the Central Congregational United Church of Christ is the new home to NANO. But more importantly, it’s a new home for other small businesses, public amenities, and flood mitigation measures that will ensure the neighborhood weathers future storms and bounces back stronger than ever.  

Initially built in 1944, the church at 2401 Bienville Street was designed by Ferdinand Lucien Rousseve, the first black architect licensed in Louisiana. It played a significant role in the community, hosting prominent African American leaders such as Walter Young and Lester Blackwell Grange, and housing one of the country’s first African American childcare centers in the rear sanctuary building. NANO’s rejuvenation of 2401 Bienville draws on our knowledge of local zoning policy, preservation guidelines, and city demographics to honor this rich history by preserving the adjoined buildings’ architectural character and continuing their tradition of community service.  

We made minimal changes to the church structure, restoring and reinforcing the original brick facade as needed, and inserting new double-glazed windows to improve energy efficiency and create a more attractive street presence. Inside, we restored the trusses in the main sanctuary, which provides a memorable space for a community-supporting anchor tenant, and slightly expanded the second-floor choir to be NANO’s new home. Celebrating both the past and the future, the new space better serves our growing staff and reflects who we are as a company.  

NANO also updated the former Hume building with a new entry, new windows, and new storefront–all designed to complement the original architecture–and new plumbing to ensure the flexible spaces can host a diverse range of tenants. The central courtyard and parking area have been strengthened new stormwater management systems, including permeable pavers, large planters, and catch basins to make the neighborhood more resilient. And extensive new outdoor lighting throughout the complex will help make it safer. The updated building meets both WELL certification standards and the energy targets established by the AIA 2030 challenge. 

We developed 2401 Bienville –because we love and believe in this neighborhood. We designed the building with great care to be a cultural hub that makes our community more environmentally and economically resilient. 

New Orleans Fire Department Multi-Stations

New Orleans Fire Department Multi-Stations

Use: Municipal
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: Various
Category: Architecture

Hurricane Katrina severely damaged fire stations across New Orleans. Before substantial repairs could be made in the wake of the storm, FEMA had to survey every affected station in the city, complete a comprehensive damage report, and prepare an estimate for repairs. The City of New Orleans asked NANO to conduct a parallel survey confirming FEMA’s findings and oversee the needed updates to 12 of the city’s most essential stations. 

The work required exhaustive documentation and thorough organization. Leveraging our extensive expertise with historic structures and New Orleans building codes, we completed our independent audit. We worked closely with national and local agencies to get the city full and fair compensation for the repairs and equip the first responders with the resources they needed. Every station had different problems, requiring a meticulous review of each building, looking beyond the obvious flood damage compounded by the passing of time to understand the damage to the buildings’ structural and mechanical systems. Further complicating things, ersatz repairs were completed in many locations to get the stations operational and protect the city while FEMA completed their surveys.

In addition to auditing FEMA’s findings and preparing the necessary drawings, NANO also developed several alternate schemes and additional improvements the city could follow up on as resources become available. We then figured out the most efficient way to permit the work and phase the restorations. Because the stations had to close while renovations were completed, we identified a sequence of work that allowed us to make the needed updates to stations across the city while ensuring that every community continued to be protected.

This undertaking, along with NANO’s work restoring the New Orleans Fire Department Headquarters,has played a vital role in restoring the city’s essential services. We feel privileged to help protect the men and women who have pledged to protect us.

Octavia Books & Toast

OCTAVIA BOOKS & TOAST

Use: Restaurant, Retail
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 4,422 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

To help a beloved local bookstore and neighborhood bakery better serve their community, NANO renovated and rehabilitated the 100-year-old structure they share. Building on the bookstore’s established design language, we expanded both businesses with a dynamic and flexible design that provides more space for holding public events, displaying books, and enjoying a cup of coffee or meal with friends.

The client initially requested separate expansions for each business, but we quickly realized the potential in uniting them. Octavia Books and Toast share many customers, and it felt natural for them to share space as well. Our solution is inspired by Octavia’s bold original design, which remains almost entirely intact. From its recessed entry to the layout of its bookshelves, the store used angles to define cozy, inviting spaces. We refined and formalized that intuitive design language to continue those angles throughout the building’s entire lower floor. As a result, the expansion feels like a natural progression of the bookstore space – distinctive but clearly connected to the original.

The space weaves around four structural cores that house essential building systems, storage, and offices. Between the bookstore and cafe, pivoting shelves can be easily opened or closed to separate the stores as needed. In addition to adding new shelving and displays, we created a variety of informal seating and expanded the area for children’s books–a specialty of Octavia’s and a rapidly growing market. Near the center of the store, a small stage gives the store much-needed space to host readings, signings, and the many events that have made Octavia Books an anchor in the literary community of New Orleans.

Wherever possible, the original masonry walls and wood ceiling remain exposed. We carefully designed all interventions to be built–and removed, if necessary–without damaging the original structure. A new acoustic wood ceiling, suspended from the original joists, highlights the circulation through the space. Inspired by traditional bookbinding techniques, its vertical wood fins stitch together the old spaces and new, folding to articulate special areas or points of interest. Octavia’s signature shade of blue is used as an accent color throughout, complementing the rich, warm tone of the wood ceiling and bookcases, which are framed by custom millwork and integrated lighting.

Separately–and now together–Octavia Books and Toast create a sense of community in uptown New Orleans. The dynamic and joyful expansion celebrates the power of place and the sense of fulfillment we gain through reading, eating, and connecting with one another.

New Orleans Fire Department Headquarters & Training Academy

NEW ORLEANS FIRE DEPARTMENT HEADQUARTERS & TRAINING ACADEMY

Use: Municipal/Commercial
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 18,500 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design

When The New Orleans Fire Department closed its headquarters in 2011 due to hurricane and environmental issues, staff and resources were scattered across the city. To centralize this invaluable public service, NANO is transforming an old department training facility into a versatile headquarters and resilient storm shelter. When completed, the updated building’s flexible spaces and durable design will ensure that when disaster hits, the City’s first responders are ready.

The existing facility is a Post-Modern idiosyncratic 18,500-square-foot brick and plaster structure with a gabled roof and symbolic hose tower. Working in close collaboration with the fire chief, NANO redesigned the building for 24-hour operation. We updated the interior to work efficiently and accommodate the complex program needed for an emergency building, creating spaces for offices and administration areas, medical and training facilities, and a fully equipped dormitory.

A new 1,500-square-foot addition reflects the massing and geometry of the existing building. Clad in durable metal panels and louvers, the second-story addition bridges the main building and an adjacent auditorium to create a distinctive gateway that marks the facility’s entry and gives it a more modern sensibility. We reinforced this feeling by replacing all existing glazing with impact-resistant, black-framed windows and updating the façade with more contemporary exterior finishes.

Not only do the improvements enhance the building’s aesthetic,but they also make it safer. We upgraded the building to a Type II-B, Risk Category IV compliant structure. In addition to site remediation, water-proofing, and impact-resistant glazing, we designed a secure space for a large generator, an access control system fully integrated into the security monitoring system, and resilient flood mitigation and stormwater management solutions. 

Navigating the city’s institutions can be a challenge, but we’re proud to support the NOFD and get them back under one roof. This project strengthens the entire city by consolidating resources, improving communication and preparedness, and creating a greater sense of community among New Orleans firefighters.

Il Mercato

IL MERCATO

2015 Louisiana Landmarks Society Award of Excellence in Historic Preservation
Use: Reception Hall
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 10,000 SF
Category: Architecture & Interiors

Located at the triangular lot defined by Magazine Street, St. Mary Street, and Sophie Wright Place, and sharing the lot with Sophie Wright Park, Il Mercato was an historic architectural gem waiting for the right project and vision to make it the centerpiece of the neighborhood it had been envisioned to be.

Built in the 1930s as a WPA project for the New Orleans Public Market System, the “Magazine Market”is a stucco finished building, with a classical arched loggia, red tile roof, and steel casement windows. Over the years, the building had suffered from deferred maintenance, and had become a signage fabrication and design shop, that had enclosed or covered many of the historic/iconic architectural elements. The surrounding neighborhood and park had equally suffered from declining interest, use, and larger economic factors.

Working with the owner, NANO was originally hired to assist with the historic tax credit applications and systems integration. Due to a variety of technical, HDLC, SHPO, systems integration, design, other considerations, ownership hired NANO to take the project from mid Schematic Design to Occupancy.

The owner’s, vision for the project was a full-service banquet hall. The realities of historic renovations, mechanical upgrades, life safety issues, and budget drove the design team to suggest a phased approach with the inclusion of a future production kitchen to be allowed for spatially, but not completed during Phase 1.

Budget and aesthetic priorities were centered on the historic materials, replacing primary mechanical systems and creating a ‘Destination’ facility. Creating an outdoor venue that enhanced the hall both functionally, commercially, and aesthetically helped achieve that mission. Pricing offsets were discovered in a performance-based life safety solution that eliminated the requirement for fire suppression systems, that would have significantly impacted the stucco ceilings as well as typical installation costs. As a result, the owner was able to make substantial donations / improvements to the adjacent public park improving their own property as well as the neighborhood’s.

Today the business is a centerpiece for the neighborhood resurgence with new businesses, commerce and renovations occurring on all sides of the property, creating a placemaking area for the neighborhood.

Due to the commercial success, Phase II, the implementation of the commercial kitchen has recently been achieved.

2513 METAIRIE ROAD

2513 METAIRIE ROAD

2019 AIA Divine Detail Merit Award
Use: Commercial
Location: Metairie, LA
Size: 5,400 SF
Category: Architecture & Interior Design
Located on Metairie Road, this $1.6 million boutique commercial development was the first test case for the newly adopted Jefferson Parish Commercial Parkway Pedestrian Overlay Zone (CPZ-Ped) to encourage a more traditional pedestrian-oriented streetscape.

Working closely with owner and the Jefferson Parish zoning and permitting departments, NANO utilized the highly stringent zoning codes to the client’s advantage.

Locating the building as close to the street as permissible and rotating the second-floor mass 90 degrees allowed the user a signature business and architectural presence on the busy thoroughfare, while allowing vehicular traffic to traverse to the back of the property where the parking is required to be. Meeting DOTD clearance requirements mandated a first floor clearance of 13’-6” minimum. While these and other mandates could be seen as limits on the owner’s ability to develop the property, NANO chose to look at them as opportunities. The stature of the building enhances the exterior porch (a Mardi Gras favorite) and the interior spaces are lofty.

Interior spaces are amply lit by natural light, but consideration of the south facing store front passive solar gain was mitigated by the porch and overhang.

The foyer hall allows for a soaring double height space, while the client’s expertise in metal-working brought the grand stair to fantastic fruition. Finishes are clean, simple and chosen for high traffic endurance, slip resistance, and ease of maintenance.

Structural considerations included enhanced lateral bracing and mechanical porch that allow for the inclusion of an emergency generator and safe occupancy as the owner desired it to be a personal hurricane shelter.

Requirements of the CPZ-Ped zoning included 70% of the front elevation had to be glazed, and the front set back was a maximum of 10’-0” from the property line off of Metairie Road.

This was the first building to pass the new Jefferson Parish CPZ-Ped zoning standards. Working with storefront contractor and Jefferson Parish, we were able to achieve the code regulations required, the brick pattern integral to the design, and maintain the 70% glazing criteria.

This building set the standard for the revitalization of Metairie Road and is still used as a “standard of excellence” for Jefferson Parish.

GNO Inc

GNO INC

Use: Offices
Location: New Orleans, LA
Size: 10,000 SF
Category: Interior Design, Furniture
Located on the 34th floor of the Energy Centre, the tenant fit out for the offices of Greater New Orleans Inc. was one our favorite types of challenges.

How to make an independent business and its brand stand out and above, in the glass and steel homogeny of a city center high rise?

The primary objective in the design of the offices was to emphasize the non-profit’s role as the conduit for incoming businesses into Southeast Louisiana. The use of private/public space delineation provided the opportunity to use the public spaces as part of the border of the “Conduit Threshold,” which was incorporated throughout the space using various methods, including a custom-built feature wall and reception desk, local material selection and regional graphic design.

The office includes an 80 person board room outfitted with movable tables and chairs to maximize the space for various uses including board meetings, training sessions, and networking events. The Brainstorming conference room has vibrantly painted walls, a sofa and sitting ball to encourage thinking “outside the box.” The Prospect conference room is more formal with a neutral color scheme, white boards and a view of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The ten private offices on the outer perimeter of the space have floor to ceiling glass walls to allow natural light to filter through to the open work space in the center of the office suite.

At the 34th floor’s lobby is a custom feature wall that was designed and built by NANO, directing visitors to public meeting spaces. An abstraction of the geographical area that GNO Inc. serves, the sign is a mapping of the ten parishes/counties. Installed at the entry, it beckons, by a series of repeated manipulations to create an entry sequence, tying to the geometries of the reception desk, and directly linked to purpose and people of the organization.

With GNO Inc.’s move to the Energy Centre, and incorporation of the large, public board room, they created a “business axis” in which City Hall, the Superdome, Smoothie King Center, Warehouse Revitalization Area and GNO Inc. office are all located within three blocks of each other.

This creates an immediate adjacency for many major services that are required for any new business development.