The designers at StudioWTA are thinking inside the box — the box factory, that is.
At the StudioWTA offices in the Warehouse District, the goal is to promote collaboration and innovation. Housed in a circa-1937 former box factory, the architectural firm is known for its myriad adaptive reuse projects, including residential developments like the Rice Mill Lofts, the St. Joseph Condominiums and the adjacent Lengsfield Lofts in the Warehouse District (which were part of the former box company). With soaring ceilings, rustic wood trusses, a flood of natural light and pristine exposed brick, the airy space highlights major aspects of the firm’s work.
“Our big thing was to illustrate a creative response to the place to market who we are as designers,” says Wayne Troyer, partner and design director. “We like old buildings, and old buildings can be used in creative ways. We use it as a show house.”
The reception area sets the stage between the juxtaposition of old and new, with a sinker cypress desk custom designed by WTA and fabricated by David Gregor, two Knoll Bertoia diamond lounge chairs with full covers and artwork by New Orleans artist Mary Jane Parker. High ceilings extend from the reception area into the adjacent conference room on the left and the main, open concept office area. These spaces are separated by polycarbonate walls and oversized sliding doors created by David Borgerding.
LEFT- The architectural firm’s office serves as a “show house,” demonstrating the company’s passion for using old buildings in a creative new way. RIGHT- High ceilings extend from the reception area into the adjacent conference room. The polycarbonate walls and oversized sliding doors were created by David Borgerding. Photos Zack Smith, Jeff Johnston, and Neil Alexander
“When people come in they are taken aback by the ceilings,” says Julie Babin, partner, who cites the sheer volume of the space as one of her favorite elements. “They are about 18 feet.”
The main office area has desks custom-designed by WTA and fabricated by several local wood and metal fabricators. The shared two-person center desk is by David Gregor; Sandra Tomasetti did the individual desks; additional wood and steel individual desks are by Daniel Bel (wood) and Bobby Blanchard (steel).
Tracie Ashe, partner and project manager, says despite being so close to Interstate 10, the office is quiet. She also says large windows on the freeway-facing side of the offices and conference room not only provide significant natural light, but also frame the view of the highway in a surprisingly beautiful way. The combination of wood and steel furniture throughout the offices complements the industrial architectural elements of the space.
“We really wanted to tell the story about what this building was,” says Troyer. “A lot of the structural materials and textures were all left in place — those beautiful building trusses, the brick and two large, cast-in-place concrete platforms that used to be the mounts for the press. It reinforces that this was an industrial space.”
LEFT- The reception area has a sinker cypress desk custom designed by WTA and fabricated by David Gregor. RIGHT- A spiral metal staircase leads up to the loft, which houses additional desks, as well as the materials library. David Gregor fabricated the railing and perforated metal sides. The conference room is visible from the loft via cutouts in the wall, offering a link to what could otherwise be the most closed off area of the space.
The concrete floors were cleaned and polished and the team added a galley kitchen and bathroom, as well as a loft for additional desks and the materials library. A second bathroom was added recently and like the rest of the space, provided a chance to experiment and serve as an example of several finishes and design elements the firm can offer clients.
“There’s always this moment where there is a dialogue between the new and the historic,” says Troyer.
A spiral metal staircase leads up to the loft. Gregor fabricated the railing and perforated metal sides. The conference room is visible from the loft via cutouts in the wall, offering a link to what could be the most closed off area of the space.
“Almost all areas connect to the studio,” says Ashe. “Design is the most important thing and everything else stems from there.”
At A Glance
Company Name: StudioWTA
Address: 1119 Tchoupitoulas St.
Office completed: Architect: StudioWTA — Wayne Troyer and Tracie Ashe
Interior Designer: StudioWTA
Furnishings: Studio shelf and room divider by Cubitec shelving (Doron Lachisch for DWR); Herman Miller Aeron Chair task chairs; Knoll Bertoia diamond lounge chair with full covers in the foyer and conference room; Glass “white” boards by Clarus.
Main goal: An open and collaborative environment to foster interaction, creativity and exchange of ideas.
Biggest Challenge: The fabric of the original construction and the volume of the space — how to arrange space to fulfill requirements, while maintaining the open quality of the building and celebrating the existing, historic materials and textures.
Standout Feature: The interaction between the existing elements and the new materials and contemporary interventions — modern architecture as an insertion into a historic structure that both complements and contrasts the existing building, making a clear distinction between old and new.