I love cities, I love the daytime hustle and bustle and the ease of access of everything. I also love the myriad of things to do at night. Yet, my interactions with cities have been largely shaped by the New York City of my Childhood and the New Orleans I knew as an adult. In the 1980s and early 1990s when we used to drive into New York from Long Island it was always a place of mixed emotions. It was tall and grand with countless places to see and visit, but danger seemed to lurk around the corner. We didn’t take the subways, we took busses, and we never walked down dark alleys or empty streets. When someone asked you something on the street you kept your head down and kept on moving, you never knew if they were really in need or pulling some sort of grift. In addition, you never went into Central Park at night, nature was not to be trusted â€” it provided wonderful places for people to hide and attack you. When I moved to New Orleans for college my conception of a city changed. The fear and danger were still there, but I [...]
This week the New Orleans Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced the recipients of the 2009 Design Awards. Out of 70 entries, 12 were chosen for awards, 3 of which were awards of Honor and the other 9 were awards of Merit. The theme for this year’s awards was “Responsive, Responsible, Timeless,” which was chosen to emphasis the importance of classical architecture and design. The awards were chosen by a Jury featuring Jim Evans, AIA; Andrew Vrana, AIA; and Kimberly Hickson, AIA and were presented in a ceremony presided over by Jeffrey Smith, AIA 2009 President of the AIA New Orleans Chapter and Design Awards Chair Michael Piazza, AIA. Of the 12 winners there are only 6 firms represented; I have to wonder why this is. Is there a lack of architects doing good work in New Orleans, or is this phenomenon the result of the 70 project pool that was judged? If the former, then there seems to be an opportunity waiting for a young rising star to make their name, if its the latter I wonder why so few offices are entering work to be judged. I would hate to think that the results of [...]
Above is the keynote address from the Tulane School of Architecture sponsored symposium: Preservation Matters by Tulane Alum and Editor of Architectural Record magazine, Robert Ivy, FAIA. The speech is a long overdue acknowledgement of the work of the Preservation Studies / Historic Preservation Program headed by my past professor, Eugene Cizek, FAIA and a discussion of the historic preservation movement within the city of New Orleans and Tulane’s role through the twentieth century. I have to laud the efforts of the new Dean of the Architecture School, Kenneth Schwartz, who introduces the conference and Mr. Ivy. Regional Modernism has a more detailed synopsis of the presentation. Throughout my years at the school, I always felt that the historical importance of place and the efforts of the preservation program to bring this idea to the student body was too often bulldozed by a blind passion for high modernism and other international styles. Issues of climate and green design were handled in the structural technology classes, but too often they did not play a part in the critically explored design studio work. As an aside, I spent a number of minutes trying to figure out where they held this symposium. This [...]
Tulane School of Architecture is hosting a one day symposium at the end of January focusing on Preservation. The keynote speaker will be Robert Ivy, FAIA and one of my favorite professors, Eugene Cizek, FAIA, will be providing commentary. This symposium is free and open to the public. If I was able to be in New Orleans, I would love to attend.
Today starts DesCours, New Orleans’s second annual AIA sponsored public art installation festival. For the next five days the public spaces all over the French Quarter and Central Business District (CBD) will be transformed into interactive design installations. Not only is this a cool chance to inhabit spaces by up and coming artists and designers, but local fixtures such as Rebirth Brass Band and the Trème Brass Band will be filling the spaces with sounds that are distinctly New Orleanian. This “Architects Week” on an urban scale is free and open to the public.
With the recent closing of many of the area’s Circuit City stores and the bleak financial forecast, this Sunday’s Washington Post article about what to do with big box stores after they close down, seemed to be fortuitously timed to impact the local planning discourse. For this article, the Post assembled a collection of local architects and artists, such as Darrel Rippeteau, Roger K. Lewis, Esocoff & Associates, et al., and asked them how they would reuse a big-box store. The graphics in this article are intriguing and open an sub/urban planning discussion on what to do with the trappings of early twenty-first century American development once this business model has changed. The proposals include luxury housing, gardens, vineyards, and other adaptive reuse measures. This is all green and good, but I have to question the safety and cost of reusing these big box stores. Like fast food franchises, big box stores are not built to last. They are not constructed with any concept of their permanence, instead they are meant to go up quick and cheap and come down the same way when the new mega-ultra-super mart opens around the corner. The advantage of reusing old warehouses and factories [...]
I submitted the op-ed below to the editorial desk of the New Orleans Times Picayune two weeks ago. I have not received any response to my inquiries, so I assume that they are not interested; if that changes I may have to remove this post. In any case, I would like to present my solution for a sustainable redevelopment of New Orleans: An urban plan for a new New Orleans. Although New Orleans avoided GustavÊ¼s wrath, we need to learn as much as we did the hard way from Katrina. Instead of rebuilding the city and the levees as they were, we need to make it so that New Orleans will never worry about a hurricane again. New Orleans has had a past fraught with disasters: twice ï¬res wiped out the bulk of the French and Spanish colonial city and there have been numerous ï¬‚oods and levee breaks which have altered the cityÊ¼s shape.Â Over the last century we believed that we had bent nature to our will by controlling the course of the Mississippi River and preventing the annual ï¬‚ood.Â At the same time developers drained the surrounding swamps to make new low-lying easily ï¬‚ooded subdivisions.Â The damage caused [...]
A good friend of mine from architecture school who is involved in the process of building the new Charity Hospital sent me an update on the old building’s situation. Selections from her response below: [A]s I work at the firm that did the storm damage and the new packages to get the work done to fix the MYRIAD of problems just from the storm itself with FEMA I can pretty much tell you this: that building will never again be a hospital. According to the codes necessary for health care there is no way for that building to reach code for less than a couple more million than they’re going to spend on the new one. In addition the amount of asbestos and mold inherent in the HVAC and wall systems, due to the materials used last time they renovated that building, stack another couple to 30 mil on. It’s not a cheap building to fix for anything, especially for something as specific as a hospital. Which is why they are pouring 10.2 billion dollars (most likely plus) into the new LSU/Charity Hospital … [P]eople can make noise as much as they want about it being done faster with a [...]
This is a bit of really good news! Over at PreservationNation it seems that there is some discussion by RMJM Hillier about rehabilitating Charity Hospital in New Orleans. This 1938 Art Deco building always reminded me of a little bit of Gotham City in the heart of the Crescent. Besides its architectural good looks, I knew many a service industry worker without health care who were able to be treated here without having to worry about repayment, and quite a few LSU medical school students who trained here. In addition, I had a number of friends in the Tulane EMS squad, and they always told me that if I got shot, to ask the ambulance driver to bring me to charity, because they had the best gunshot trauma ward in town.
It remains to be seen if this will ever see the light of day, and in addition, if it does how preservation sensitive the rehabilitation will be.
Its been over three years since I moved to Northern Virginia and said good bye to my friends and Alma Mater in New Orleans. How was I to know that 3 months later the world would end and everything New Orleans would be measured in relevance to Katrina. Now, as we welcome in year 3 PK, New Orleans is facing the possibility of another major disaster. It is my hope of hopes that Gustav does not undo all the rebuilding and planning that have happened in the past three years. If the worst happens and the city is deluged again, I worry that the country will not be as generous as last time; I can already hear them crying on the senate floor for abandonment and rebuilding elsewhere. I can see the talking heads blaming New Orleans for not “learning its lesson,” as if the city had not been flooded numerous times in its past. If the money does come again, I can just imagine the repressive building codes to and flood plane restrictions, all methods of preventing future loss of property. Yet the city would become one big concrete block raised 40 feet in the air. How can we [...]