Julien Worms
Vice president
Picardie Timber Frame + Millwork

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Picardie Timber Frame operates a custom millwork shop, manages historic restoration and renovation projects and is a general contractor. Tell us about some of your local projects?

One of our favorite projects was working on the Sazerac House, the location of this year’s PRC 50th Anniversary Gala, which showcases our capabilities in both millwork and restoration. We built all the bars, including the incredible char bar, and the custom floor-to-ceiling bottle display in the foyer. We restored the windows, doors, and historical staircase, which we dismantled and brought into our facility in the Bywater. We work out of a 67,000-square-foot property that is equipped to execute large-scale millwork and restoration projects and allowed us the space to recreate this staircase on site and then bring it back to Sazerac.

More recently, we restored the exterior of the main building at Louise S. McGehee School, window and door restoration for four historic buildings on Xavier University’s campus, and all the windows and front doors at Tulane University’s Richardson Hall, home of the School of Architecture. At McGehee, we restored and reconstructed all porches, balconies, and exterior staircases, including the columns, newel posts, spindles, louvered shutters, railing assembly, and floor decking. We also served as the general contractor for the restoration of the Dining Hall building at Ursuline Academy.

You are a graduate of one of France’s most prestigious trade schools, Les Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France. Tell us about that amazing program and how the timber framing you learned in France fits with New Orleans’ historic building construction.

Les Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France is an intense trade education program that dates to the Middle Ages. UNESCO recognizes the organization for its unique method of transmitting knowledge. For 10 years, starting at age 15, I traveled every six to 12 months to a new Compagnon House, where I lived with other compagnons studying carpentry, stonework, tapestry, and other artisanal trades. As a compagnon, you master the trade and material with which you work; for me it is wood. So, along with traditional joinery methods, I learned every property of wood and how to manipulate it. This now allows Picardie to push the limits in construction, much like the original compagnons pushed the limits to build medieval cathedrals, and still do today (restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral following the fire in 2019).

New Orleans retains so much historical woodwork, similar to France, which relies on the traditional joinery that allows a structure to remain in place for centuries. In France, I worked on projects that were 600 years old. While New Orleans does not have structures that have been around quite that long, with care they can be.

You are from France, and your wife, Christina Worms, president of Picardie, is a native of South Carolina who earned her Master of Architecture degree from the University of Florida. What lured you both to New Orleans?

Our journey to New Orleans began in 2006 when we met working on a project that was a partnership between the World Monuments Fund, Preservation Trades Network, Les Compag-nons, the American College of the Building Arts, and the University of Florida. Many of these organizations were working boots-on-the-ground in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and Christina was recruited to come to Mississippi.

There, she managed close to 100 grant projects and conducted Section 106 reviews for historical projects that had been impacted by Katrina. I would visit frequently while still working internationally, spending much of our time in New Orleans. And this city was the first place I had been in the United States that felt like home. New Orleans’ vibrant spirit captivated us, and we chose to establish roots. We’ve since had three sons here and are embedded in the community. We share a profound desire to contribute to the preservation and revitalization of this
remarkable city.

Finally, what does historic preservation mean to you and why is it important for the New Orleans economy?

New Orleans is a unique American city, where our historic structures have been preserved in a meaningful and large-scale way. This historic preservation has contributed to an aesthetic that is both beautiful and charming — and it establishes a sense of a place that is largely unrivaled within the United States. It compels visitors to come to our city and fosters a sense of awe in all who bear witness. This is true along our residential streets in each and every neighborhood — from cottages to shotguns to mansions — and along our commercial corridors. In particular, the recent work to restore the storefronts along Canal Street returns this important corridor to its place in history as an anchor of commerce and a showcase of our city’s architecture. We were fortunate to be a part of this work, which has led to the ongoing revitalization of Canal Street as an upscale retail center and economic driver.