Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - convention centers

Designers: Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, and Robertson, Incorporated, Engineers (firm); John Valdemar Christiansen (structural engineer); Helge Joel Helle (structural engineer); Leslie Earl Robertson (engineer); John Bower Skilling (structural engineer)

Dates: constructed 1964-1968, demolished 1995

total floor area: 130,000 sq. ft.

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New Orleans, LA

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The distinguished Seattle structural engineering firm of Skilling, Helle, Christensen and Robertson contributed some of the most important design work that produced the Rivergate Exhibit Facility in New Orleans. John V. Christiansen (b. 1927) was the Partner-in-Charge for Skilling, Helle, Christiansen and Robertson. Christiansen's engineering of the 453-foot, 1-1/2 catenary-curve barrel arches that created a giant clear span on the interior and a dynamic "humpbacked" shape on the exterior. The rolling form was meant to emulate the waves of the Missisippi River located 500 feet away. Christiansen worked with a skilled team on this colossal, multi-purpose building, including the New Orleans architectural firm of Curtis and Davis, with Nathaniel C. Curtis, Jr., (1917-1998), acting as the Partner-in-Charge and Design Architect; Silverstein and Associates and Favrot, Mathes and Bergman and Associates collaborated with Curtis and Davis as associated architects; the general contractor was C.H. Leavell and Company. Construction began on 12/04/1964 and concluded in early 1968.

A Tulane University web site discussed the scale and importance of the Rivergate project to the City of New Orleans: "In the revitalization scheme of the 1950s, one of the most prominent sites in downtown New Orleans, the intersection of the broad main thoroughfare Canal Street with the Mississippi River, was selected to erect what Richard R. Dixon called one of the nation's finest new convention-exhibition facilities (Dixon 1966). The Rivergate cost $25 million 1960 dollars. By 1994, this building was estimated to be worth $300 million (Curtis 1993-1994). The designated site, six city blocks, is bounded by Canal, Poydras, South Peters Streets, and Convention Center Boulevard. The Rivergate had pedestrian entrances on Canal and Poydras Streets and Convention Center Boulevard. The South Peters Street elevation was dedicated to entrance and exit openings for the two-level subsurface 800-automobile parking garage, a long loading dock with two access doors 20' x 20' to the first floor, and freight elevators." The interior space, free of vertical supports, could be divided into two sections, the The 95,500-square-foot South Hall and the 34,500-square-foot North Hall, rechristened "Penn Hall" for the facility's manager, Herman Penn.

Demolished; implosion of the Rivergate occurred on 01/13/1995 creating 42 million pounds of concrete and steel for landfills. Idiotically, a Harrah's casino replaced this amazing building, a 1990s cure-all for urban problems.

PCAD id: 18966