“I was never an architect’s architect. I’m too impatient. I just can’t wait around for years for a building to get built,” says New Orleans sculptor Laurel Porcari. Her preferred medium, kiln-formed glass, is hot, heavy, and dirty, but immediate—a far cry from CAD drawings. Nevertheless, her pieces, cast so that the material flows and warps to take on textures or resemble landscapes, capture an architect’s sensibility. After receiving her Master of Science in architecture. from Columbia in 1993, Porcari headed for Australia, where she taught design in both Perth and Melbourne. She was also working in plastic, hand-printing abstract maps on acrylic sheets to create art installations. Returning to the States, she landed in New Orleans to study in the urban design Ph.D. program at Tulane University.*
When she discovered Tulane’s glass foundry, she switched to the fine arts department. “I realized that the material held a lot more potential to build something big, environmental, and site-specific.” She earned an M.F.A. in 2003. If Porcari is nostalgic for anything in the architecture profession, it’s neatness: “Some days I miss going to work and being clean,” she jokes.
These days, Porcari casts glass in her NOKO Studio for new architectural commissions and develops proposals for public art installations. She also teaches glass fabrication at Tulane. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she banded together with local artists to establish the New Orleans Creative Glass Institute. The nonprofit provides studio space and a focal point for the city’s glass arts community.