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Louisiana Architecture Foundation

Acadian Modernism

Architect John Desmond made a modernist style just for Louisiana

Published: March 1, 2019
Last Updated: June 1, 2023

Acadian Modernism

First Christian Church Archives

In this circa 1960 photo, Frank Lotz Miller captured the façade of the sanctuary of First Christian Church, a Hammond landmark designed by John Desmond.

Hammond is home to numerous architectural treasures, such as the Columbia Theater (circa 1928) and Boos Building (circa 1897), but few people know of Hammond’s newer, more contemporary historic and architecturally significant landmarks: one hundred mid-century modern–style homes, churches, government buildings, and businesses. Designed by award-winning architect and former Hammond resident John Desmond (1922–2008), each structure fuses modern architecture with Louisiana-inspired details. The unique style has gained attention from architecture professionals and enthusiasts across the country.

Desmond left Hammond after high school to earn degrees in architecture from Tulane University and MIT. After working in New York at influential architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, he returned to Louisiana to work with A. Hays Town. In 1953, he opened a practice in Hammond, where he created a Louisiana version of Modernism.

The Modern and International styles came to the United States from Germany in the 1930s and soon led to other variations, such as Expressionist and New Formalist. For most of his Hammond designs, Desmond incorporated the clean lines and broad forms of the New Formalist style while adding in details of his Louisiana surroundings. Called Acadian Modernism, Desmond’s style makes use of Acadian architectural features and materials such as pitched roofs, galleries, pavilions, large overhangs, timber framing with brick, and wooden columns.

For a closer look at this style and its creator, the public is invited to the Mid-Century Modern Home Tour in Hammond on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The event is presented by the Louisiana Architecture Foundation and the Hammond Historic District Commission. The tour includes seven open homes and sites designed by Desmond and his contemporaries. For more info see www.louisianaarchitecture.org/events or contact [email protected].

Stacey Pfingsten is Executive Director at the Louisiana Architecture Foundation.