Rebuilding New Orleans is part of KC architecture firm's mission

Any day now, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is expected to sign a contract to rebuild five libraries destroyed four years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

And if all goes according to plan, the libraries will open next spring, a mere 10 months after groundbreaking, thanks to a fast-track process that has had Kansas City architects operating at a breakneck pace for much of this year.

The Kansas City architectural firm of Gould Evans Associates landed the contract in a competition this summer and in a joint venture with a smaller New Orleans firm and a major contractor.

The $26.4 million design-build project is not the biggest reconstruction effort under way in the damaged city, but the libraries represent key, symbolic pieces of renewal in their respective neighborhoods.

"It almost feels like we're on a mission," Tony Rohr, Gould's managing principal, said last week.

Last week, Rohr spent an hour or more with architects in his office reviewing and revising drawings and discussing issues ranging from color schemes to site orientation to ceiling finishes.

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