|Click on the image to enlarge.
Nathaniel C. Curtis Sr. (1881-1953), first architecturally
trained educator to head
the Tulane School of Architecture, 1912, nnp, nd.
My father often told
me that success in a lifetime in his estimation should be measured
by three accomplishments: have a son, build a house, and write a
book. I have never forgotten those words, and perhaps unconsciously
my life has been affected by them. I suppose he meant that it was
preferable, if not completely necessary, to have a son, as he did,
who would be an architect. I have carried on that tradition with
my younger son, David (Bachelor of Architecture, Tulane University,
1982), the third generation architect in our family.
The site for the Curtis residence, built in 1963, is located
in a section of New Orleans called Uptown, where Tulane and Loyola
Universities, Newcomb College, Audubon Park, and many old and large
residences are located. The Uptown neighborhood is the fourth oldest
next to the French Quarter, the Lower Garden District, and the Garden
District. The section is filled with magnificent oak trees. Our
site is small, 70' x 150', a block from St. Charles Avenue, one
of the great avenues of America. We are surrounded by houses built
in the late nineteenth century.
To create its own
environment and to maintain privacy, the house is enclosed by an
eight-foot high brick wall within which are three pavilions--for
living, dining, and a cave like pavilion for sleeping. A low gallery
holds the elements together. The spaces in between the pavilions
are secluded patios. There are only two openings in the wall facing
the street, the garage door and a decorative entry gate, a reproduction
of the cast-iron balcony rail of the historically significant home
of architect James Gallier Jr. in the French Quarter.
On the right of the
entrance is a double living room pavilion, both ends face patios
and are separated from them by sliding glass doors. When these doors
are opened, the patios become extensions of the interior space.
|Click on the image to enlarge.
Living room, Curtis residence.
Photo by Abbye A. Gorin, 1998.
the left of the entrance is the glass pavilion containing the dining,
kitchen, and family rooms. This pavilion also looks out on either
side to other patios. These two buildings are designed to impart
a feeling of being outdoors but under a roof. This sense is heightened
by the use of glass from floor to ceiling and by the absence of
vertical members except for slender steel columns between the floor
and the roof structure. The view from these pavilions is outward
to the brick walls and upward into the branches and foliage of the
surrounding oak trees giving serenity to the place.
Straight ahead from
the front entrance door at the rear end of the low gallery is the
sleeping pavilion containing the master bedroom suite and six other
bed rooms, four on a second level and two on the lower level. These
accommodated our five girls upstairs and two boys downstairs across
the stair hall from the master bedroom. The sleeping pavilion is
depressed one-half level into the ground so that this element would
fit under the branches of an oak tree and so that one walks only
one-half level up or down from the gallery.
We have lived in our
house for twenty-seven years, and the only thing we have added,
besides our art collection, is a microwave oven.
In 1965, two years
after we occupied the house, New Orleans was struck by Hurricane
Betsy. Many of the roofs in town were blown off, and chimneys came
tumbling down all around us, but we in our house behind an eight-foot
high wall, built for privacy and aesthetics, suffered no damage--a
lucky, unplanned, unexpected dividend.
The entire concept
of the house has regional antecedents in the French Quarter where
the historic houses turn their backs to the streets and face interior
patios. These houses also have a sense of peace away from the noise
of the street and form their own private environment within.
NOW, HERE'S THE BOOK
New Orleans, Louisiana