Architect couple building for Bay St. Louis' future

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - You might not know their names, but if you live in or visit Hancock County, chances are you've seen their work.

Allison and John Anderson are the architects behind more than 50 building projects in and around Hancock County since Hurricane Katrina. So how are their contemporary designs going over in cities like Bay St. Louis, which is known for its historic architecture?

The newest building in old town Bay St. Louis, 443 Main Street, is generating a lot of curiosity and raising a few eyebrows.

"I don't really think it fits with the area, it seems a bit out of place," said Bay St. Louis resident Elizabeth Foster.

Resident Jeff Merrill offered a mixed opinion.

"It's a little bit different," he said. "It's a little odd, but I think progress is better than regress, and at least there is a building there."

The building was designed by husband and wife architects Allison and John Anderson. It will serve a dual purpose: office space for their architectural firm, and the three story tower at the end of the building is live/work/retail space.

"This will be one of the first buildings in Hancock County that will be LEED certified, which is a national standard for energy efficiency and environmental design," said Allison Anderson.

The Andersons are the brains behind the designs of many of the buildings that have gone up in the area since Katrina: The Early Education Center in Waveland, the city's Business Center, the St. Rose Holy Spirit Center in the Bay, the fire station, and the city parking garage.

"We build in new ways that are more energy efficient. So it's critical to see projects like the parking garage for Bay St. Louis. It is the only recovery project that is actually getting a check from the power company each month instead of turning one over," explained Allison.

The couple's signature is also stamped on the new design of the food court at the New Orleans Super Dome, and the evacuation shelters going up in Hancock County.

"When you put something new up, there's always an emotional response, I think. We continue to re-enforce the quality of Bay St. Louis as a special place and a place where eclecticism is still welcome," said Allison.

"We take criticism well," John said. "We try to understand what people are liking or not liking and try to incorporate that in our next piece of work."

The architects do believe in preserving the buildings of the past. Their firm led restoration work on the old Waveland Civic Center on Coleman Avenue and the Bay St. Louis Little Theater on Blaze Avenue. But they say building for today is building for the future.

"It's an amazing time to be an architect and an amazing place to be an architect," said Allison.

A grand opening ceremony will be held for the new Main Street building May 7th.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.