This rectangular steel-framed concrete and glass building marked Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s first use of a wrap-around sunscreen and was possibly the first large-scale use of that feature in the United States. Interior spaces are shielded from the sun on all four sides by tiers of thirteen-foot-high aluminum louvers set into the aluminum-edged, cantilevered concrete floor slabs. Because the main wing is oriented with the long sides facing northeast and southwest, the fins, thirty inches deep, are at right angles to the walls. The building was also engineered to be fully air-conditioned. The aluminum-louvered facade was described at the time as “light and lacy” and a modern reinterpretation of New Orleans’s balconies. The building is elevated on a podium-like basement, giving it a classical presence, an impression enhanced by the broad and ceremonial flight of stairs that originally led to the central entrance (which have been replaced by two narrow out-of-scale staircases). The entrance level is recessed, giving the impression that the upper four floors hover over their base. A cafeteria-auditorium and an executive dining room were located on the second floor to face an interior courtyard (landscaped by Ralph Ellis Gunn of Houston and now altered), and a one-story service wing extends to the rear. SOM’s associate architect for this project was Claude E. Hooton. After standing vacant since 2000 (the building was used as an annex to City Hall after Pan-American moved into its new SOM-designed high-rise at 601 Poydras Street in 1980), it was renovated as administrative spaces for the adjacent new VA Hospital complex.
Opposite at 2425 Canal is Curtis and Davis’s Caribe Building of 1958. It is composed of two units, the larger at four stories facing Canal. The exterior screen of clay tile for sun control and privacy is set three feet in front of the building’s glass walls to reduce heat transfer. The Curtis and Davis office occupied the upper floor when it was built.