Architectural Soul of the City at Stake

A fantastic article @ NOLA.com about the preservation of homes and the slow, confused reconstruction of the city:

Campanella believes that at the two-year mark, the struggle to preserve Crescent City architecture is most pitched not in the historic sliver by the river or in the ghostly post-war neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the flood, but in what he calls “the back of town”: intermediate zones in Gentilly, Treme, Central City and Broadmoor, below the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, where the working-class houses were old but not ancient, damaged but not devastated. “The shotguns and cottages in the back of town are typical of New Orleans and rare throughout the rest of the nation,” he said. “You’re not going to find them in Long Beach and Denver.”Long before Katrina and the failed levees, New Orleans’ architectural fabric was already showing signs of wear. Termites, leaking roofs, cat’s claw vines and the pull of poverty had dragged a large percentage of the city’s housing stock to the brink of the architectural abyss.

Reed Kroloff, the former director of the Tulane School of Architecture who accepted the directorship of Cranbrook Academy of Art in May and last week left wilted New Orleans for the crisper climes of lower Michigan (ed note: bitter?), estimates that 30,000 properties were already in jeopardy to one degree or another before Katrina. Now bureaucracy can be added to the list of dangers. The city has during the past several months compiled lists of structures so badly damaged or dilapidated that they are in need of architectural euthanasia.

…Mexican rising star Enrique Norten headlines a team of planners who may eventually convert New Orleans’ sadly dilapidated industrial riverfront into a serpentine urban park, studded with futuristic structures. The as-yet-unfinanced $1 billion Reinventing the Crescent project, as it’s known, is envisioned for completion in 2018. Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne, winner of the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s Oscar, has conceived a $100 million National Jazz Center performance hall that he envisions on Loyola Avenue in the next five years. Mayne’s earlier post-K dream of a blocks-long modernist municipal mall has withered on the vine, leaving him a bit bewildered and bitter.”I have to tell you, the outsiders are more interested in your town than the insiders — not counting certain people,” Mayne said.Mayne lays the blame for the demise of his park project squarely on a lack of city leadership.”No one wants to pick up the ball and run with it,” he said. “I don’t know how long before the whole city atrophies.”He’s not alone in his impatience. Eskew, who has a hand in Mayne’s National Jazz Center project and the Reinventing the Crescent riverfront redevelopment, also is worried that the time for decisive government action is slipping away.”We have a city of global significance,” he said. “We’ve had it destroyed by a federal flood. The perpetrator of that flood has not stepped forward and taken responsibility. What they’ve done is put a city of global significance at risk.”

The complete article is a depressing yet compelling read.

[my old apt. although I’m sure it looks much better now and is renting for twice as much.]