By Lisa Morrell, Assoc. AIA & LGA Associate

This year I was able to attend the American Institute of Architects (AIA) national convention in New Orleans. Of course part of my reason for attending was the chance to visit New Orleans for the first time - and it sure lived up to my expectations! The fond memories of shrimp remoulade and Jackson square have stayed with me. Additionally, I'd never been to an AIA convention before, to see what they have to offer.

On Thursday I checked in just in time for Thursday's keynote speaker: the author of "Hot, Flat & Crowded," Thomas Friedman. The gist of his talk was that there are not enough resources on earth to support everyone on the planet consuming like Americans. Still many other cultures are imitating the American lifestyle of consumption, and so we need a Green Revolution!

Between seminars I had the chance jump into a streetcar, take a balmy walk around the Garden District and lunch at the legendary Commander's Palace. Amazing food (turtle soup!) and I was treated like royalty (just partly because I have a friend working in the kitchen).


Friday was seminar day. The AIA had so many options that it took some thought to choose. Two of my favorites were, oddly, the 8:00 am sessions. I learned about the new accessibility codes, BIM software in residential projects, the environmental value of building re-use, and the architect's role in disaster response. Also, I love that LGA Studios is a small company, but that means I don't get to meet lots of different architects at work. So taking part in networking events like "Women in Architecture" was an encouraging experience!
That day I also hit the massive convention floor. Every sort of building material you could think of seemed to be represented, as well as other tools for architects like publications, software, and contract document services. A little overwhelming, but I sure got some good swag - and learned about amazing products like 3M's structural bonding tape.

The rich history of New Orleans' city design makes it an excellent site for architectural exploration. Throughout the week I wandered in and out of the French Quarter (or Vieux Carre), the heart of the original city in the 1700's. One night I had the opportunity to enter several of the original house's rear courtyards. Most of the oldest buildings were lost in fires, resulting in the institution of some of the nation's earliest fire codes. So today buildings from the 1800's are operational (if in mediocre repair) - still quite old for the USA!

The early city design of New Orleans was heavily influenced by Benjamin Latrobe, including the thin rectangular shape of the French Quarter lots. In contrast, the city of Lafayette (now the Garden District of New Orleans) is laid out more estate-style to the principals of Thomas Jefferson, who completed the Louisiana Purchase primarily for the purpose of acquiring New Orleans and its surroundings.

I'd heard of the "shotgun" style house before, and I learned how it developed in New Orleans. Typically four rooms deep and only one room wide, the shotgun house is so skinny because houses in New Orleans were taxed per their lineal feet of street frontage. The picture shown to the left is actually a double shotgun, twice as wide as the original style.

From the AIA's Pecha Kucha night to the wedding parade dancing down the French Quarter street, my trip was full of unique experiences - what a treat to be able to participate!