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A Strong Sense of Place

Trahan Architects

A Strong Sense of Place
By Michael Webb -

All responsible architects respect the world of nature and strive to work in harmony with the environment. For some, like Victor F. “Trey” Trahan III, that mandate is their religion. Trahan Architects are rooted in New Orleans, with a satellite office in New York, but their founding principal grew up in rural Louisiana, in the small town of Crowley. It is said that you can take a boy out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of a boy. Trahan was inspired to become an architect by the physicality of place and the role of water in the landscape. And, though he has been practicing in big cities for the past three decades, he still embraces small-town values. “Enclosure and protection are important, but architecture is about people and relationships, as well as enclosure and protection”, he says. “I am constantly reminded of the importance of kindness and how buildings can enrich lives”.

As mentors he cites Le Corbusier for his bold massing, and Louis Kahn, whose buildings gradually reveal their complexity - notably the Kimball Art Museum. But even as he extols these modern masters, nature exerts its pull. Trahan purchased 240 ha of wilderness in Patagonia from the late Doug Tompkins, who acquired about 650,000 ha and collaborated with the Chilean government to create 11 national parks. “There are two small cottages on the property and we are adding a third”, says Trahan. “It is a place to study biodiversity and deepen our understanding of architecture”.

Trahan started modestly, working for several small firms in the Louisiana State capital of Baton Rouge, honing his technical skills while longing to express his own ideas. He opened his office in 1992 and then, as his practice grew, in Chicago in 2012 (closing in 2020), New Orleans in 2013, and New York in 2014. That allowed him to build a network of consultants, attract experienced architects to his employ, and make his...

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