Albert Ledner: A New Orleans architect as playful as his hometown – Curbed

Contemplating the town’s celebratory status, it appears oddly applicable a pair of recent houses in New Orleans can be embellished with liquor bottles and ashtrays. Albert Ledner, the architect who utilized these on a regular basis supplies in his something-however-pedestrian fashionable houses, didn’t embody them as a nod in the direction of sustainability or vices. They only match into his playful, progressive, and unfussy tackle fashionable structure.

In a profession that solely lined 50 or so buildings, lots of them now gone, Ledner embodied an unorthodox and natural strategy to designing houses, riffing off modernist tropes with his personal model. His handful of buildings in New York Metropolis, a part of an lengthy-working shopper relationship with the Nationwide Maritime Union, nonetheless stand out in a cityscape with designer structure tucked round each nook. He was “an architectural animal, who designed like a fox working by means of the forest,” stated his son Robert. His created houses with a assured creativity that impressed awe.

“I keep in mind convincing my buddy that we had been aliens, and our home was a spaceship,” he remembers.


Ledner’s buoyant persona and artistic imaginative and prescient might be credited as a product of his early environs, the town of New Orleans. His household additionally says a part of it, at the least his drive and artistic drawback fixing expertise, got here from his grandmother, Beulah Ledner, a well-known baker within the Huge Straightforward whose Tremendous Dwelling Baking firm, based mostly in Metairie, specialised within the doberge layer cake.

Nationwide Maritime Union Constructing
Courtesy of Catherine Ledner

Ledner, who all the time stayed linked to his hometown, would later design a customized oven for his grandmother’s sugary creations. In response to his daughter Catherine Ledner, a photographer at the moment ending up a documentary about her father’s life, his inventiveness and mechanical creativity is reflective of his curiosity, at an early age, of “taking issues aside and figuring them out.”

Structure appeared to scratch that itch, so Ledner determined to review at close by Tulane College. After his first 12 months, he enlisted within the Military Air Corp, coaching exterior of Tucson. It was a fortuitous expertise that led the younger pilot to fly over Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin throughout a coaching mission. The expertise impressed Ledner to drive out and discover. Wright and others had been again in Wisconsin on the time, however after Ledner completed his tour of responsibility, then graduated from Tulane in 1948, he returned to briefly research with Wright earlier than beginning his personal agency in 1949.

Ledner would spend most of his profession engaged on residential commissions in New Orleans. He discovered luck with his second design, the three-bed room Goldate Home, a brick-and-cypress magnificence that caught the attention of a photographer from Home Lovely on project in New Orleans. It led to a long time of labor and dozens of distinctive houses, typically sporting glossy horizontal strains and razor-skinny rooflines, a few of which earned plaudits from magazines such as Home & Garden. The Abe Moradian Dwelling from 1978, an exuberant ivory residence with an entryway that resembles a jukebox, has an nearly postmodern pop.

Architect Albert Ledner in entrance of his Leonard Home, in New Orleans in 2016
Joshua Brasted

Buildings to know

The placing Sunkel Home from 1961, which contained the aforementioned ashtrays, stands out, together with his own residence, as among the finest distillations of the Ledner strategy. The sq. glass items (the kind present in Denny’s eating places) line the roofline of the angular residence, which was as soon as owned by former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Ledner’s largest and most notable tasks encompass a collection of constructing he designed within the Chelsea neighborhood of New York Metropolis in 1963 and 1964. Ledner had landed a gig with the Nationwide Maritime Union, a seaman’s group, based mostly on their want to provide an outdated-long-established career a extra fashionable look. Beginning in 1954, he designed a collection of union places of work and union halls throughout the South, many with expansive, tent-like roofs that unfold like polygonal petals, finally working his means as much as designing the group’s new headquarters in New York Metropolis.

Ledner delivered with a trio of white constructions that resemble ships crusing by means of the road grid (one, a dorm, even had porthole home windows). Dean of New York architectural historical past Christopher Grey stated their facades had been “impudent within the face of doctrinaire modernism.” It’s a becoming tribute to an architect who hewed so carefully to his personal views. Two of the constructions have been repurposed as the Maritime and Dream inns.

Legacy and status at the moment

Ledner, now 93, hasn’t formally stopped working, although his final new constructing was constructed in 1996. He’s nonetheless energetic in New Orleans; his fantastical residence, blocks from a most important levee, was broken in Katrina, and required years to rebuild. After a half century, it appeared unattainable for the architect to surrender the house, adorned with a singular 12-pointed roof. Ledner appreciates the private contact, and whereas his follow by no means turned huge, it did make an impression.

“His legacy is his relationship with all of the householders,” says his son. “It’s like he was a tailor. He customized all the homes to every homeowners.”

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Albert Ledner: A New Orleans architect as playful as his hometown - Curbed