American waterfront redevelopments are often dreadfully kitschy. Fishing nets, anchors, “aged” boardwalks fresh from China: We’re pretty sure they take their design cues from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Trahan Architects‘s plan for an old municipal dock in Baton Rouge has none of that. A curving shotgun of a building, it looks like an abstract wave rising out of the Mississippi. It’s completely, unabashedly modern.
The proposal is a mixed-use scheme with housing and plenty of public space, and it’s meant to be part of a larger transformation of a pedestrian thoroughfare between LSU and downtown Baton Rouge.
It’s a great use of existing infrastructure. Baton Rouge isn’t as flood-prone as places like New Orleans, but it’s still on the Mississippi, which is no stranger to inundation. Building on a dock (well above the waterline) is just smart planning.
And here’s why it matters that the proposal isn’t nostalgic seafaring shlock: Baton Rouge had something of an identity crisis after Katrina. The storm flooded the city not with water but with displaced New Orleanians — and New Orleanian culture. The marriage of the two populations hasn’t always been a happy one, and the best thing Baton Rouge can do is reinvent itself to accommodate its new residents. Certainly, modern architecture can’t allay deeper tensions at play here. But it can help show that the city is moving forward, boldly.