Architect Adjmi To Build On Hometown Foundation
Architect Morris Adjmi said his hometown’s French Quarter cast iron balconies and crumbling Creole cottages inspire his passion for historic and industrial architecture. He said his building at 1001 Julia St., The Standard, showcases historical reverence and ambitious modernity.
Lisa Mahar and Neil Alexander
You may not recognize homegrown architect Morris Adjmi walking down the street, but you’d definitely recognize his work at 1001 Julia St., when looking up at The Standard. The 15-story luxury condominium high-rise in the South Market District, that features 24,000 square feet of retail space designed to accommodate art galleries and boutique retailers and a 30,000 square-foot roof deck shaded by magnolia trees with a large saltwater pool, private cabanas and an outdoor kitchen, was completed last year.
As the founder and principal of Morris Adjmi Architects (MA), Adjmi grew up in New Orleans, is a graduate of The Tulane School of Architecture (M. Arch. ’83), attended The Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City, spent 13 years collaborating with Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Aldo Rossi and hung up his own shingle in 1997.
Today, Adjmi is considered a “giant in the international architecture community” for “revitalizing post-industrial neighborhoods and historic districts with an architecture that bridges the past and the present without reverting to historicism or relying on nostalgia.”
MA employs a staff of more than 100 that has completed more than five million square feet of built space. Another 10 million square feet are currently under construction in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
From its headquarters in New York City’s Financial District, at 60 Broad St., MA has won more than 25 design awards.
On Tuesday, March 26, Adjmi will host an invitation only cocktail party to celebrate the grand opening of a second office, Morris Adjmi Architects in New Orleans, at 1029 Jackson Ave.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. followed by remarks by Adjmi and New Orleans Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ben Johnson.
Adjmi gave Biz a blueprint for his plans in The Big Easy:
Leslie Snadowsky: You could have opened a second office anywhere in the world. Why New Orleans, and are you excited about the recent building boom in your hometown?
Morris Adjmi: First and more foremost, I love it here. I was born here, grew up here and went to Tulane. Well before I even dreamt of becoming an architect, I was obsessively drawing French Quarter balconies. The city hasn’t stopped inspiring me since then, and there’s still so much to learn here. New Orleans is the reason that I’m an architect, and I consider it a privilege to be a part of the city’s architecture and design community.
On a personal level, I’m looking forward to spending more time here with my family. On a more practical level, the office has been lucky enough to work on some exciting projects in the South, including in Charleston, Tampa, Miami, and, of course, hopefully more to come in New Orleans. For us, it just makes sense to have an office in the South and what better place than my hometown.
L.S.: Regarding The Standard, what you are most proud about? How did you incorporate New Orleans elements into this new contemporary residential design?
M.A.: It’s been fascinating to watch South Market emerge as a new neighborhood in the heart of the city, and I am proud that we were able to play a part in that. Historically, that area was a hub of industry and commerce, and we tried to capture that spirit with a design that bridges the architectural rhythms and materials of old warehouses and former factories with the scale of the more recent developments.
L.S.: Are you optimistic about New Orleans, and is it a good time to invest in real estate? What part of town do you foresee the most growth and best return?
M.A.: Is it a good time to invest in real estate here? I certainly hope so! My wife and I recently bought and restored a house in the Garden District, while I simultaneously opened a new office here. But to answer your question more directly, I am very optimistic about New Orleans, especially Uptown and Bywater.
We would be grateful for the opportunity to build more here. Inspired by the great architecture of New Orleans, my approach is to create buildings that draw on history and embrace the present – something that I think is perfect for the city now.
L.S.: As an architect what are the biggest business pressures you face?
M.A.: In any profession, it can be a challenge to manage the growth of an office. We have been fortunate in that our practice has grown very fast and very organically over the last few years, which has been exciting, and we now have over 100 staff in New York and New Orleans. Now we are extremely focused on growing thoughtfully so we can maintain quality and attention. We offer our clients comprehensive architectural experiences that include everything from the buildings and interiors to the fixtures, furniture and even the art selection.
L.S.: How hard is it for modern-day architects to incorporate green trends into their designs?
M.A.: It’s not hard to design more sustainable buildings, but it does require forethought and planning to do it right. “Eco-friendly” doesn’t just mean tacking on a green roof or solar panels, although those can be particularly valuable. It means thinking comprehensively about every stage of a project’s design and construction to integrate sustainable methods and materials. There are a lot of questions to consider when one wants to design a resilient building. Where are the materials coming from? What parts of the project can be produced locally? We can also look to the past for inspiration. Raised structures, tall ceilings, deep balconies and shutters were all a direct response to climate and are environmentally relevant today.
L.S.: If you could have designed any building in the world, which would it have been, and if you could design any type of building in New Orleans in the future what would it be, and in what part of town?
M.A.: I’ve always said my favorite buildings are the anonymous structures by unknown architects. I actually write about this in my firm’s upcoming monograph, “A Grid and a Conversation.” The buildings that you could walk by without ever really noticing them — those are the buildings that can mindfully contribute to the fabric of the city and define how a city feels.
I’d like to design a truly New Orleans type of building, one that explores the vernacular of one of the city’s unique neighborhoods, like the Quarter or the Garden District. I’m less interested in making big architectural statements than in making buildings that work in context, and New Orleans has the richest architectural context in America.
There are so many amazing educational institutions and hospitality groups that we’d love to work with here. But the arts have always been a strong inspiration for our practice, and it would be such a privilege to work on a cultural project like a gallery, museum or music venue in a city known for its extraordinary culture.
“A Grid and a Conversation” (June 2019), is the first monograph on the work of Morris Adjmi Architects, and its publication marks the 20th anniversary of the firm. Encompassing nearly 30 architectural projects in major cities across the U.S., this illustrated survey is interlaced with a series of conversations between Morris Adjmi and several long-time collaborators, offering unique insight into MA’s process and providing context for the firm’s work.