Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last day to comment on FEMA 106 review of public schools

Landbanked PK-8 Schools to Review Options at End of Phase 1 or to Demolish

Today is the last day to submit a public comment to FEMA on the schools effected by the master plan. http://www.crt.state.la.us/culturalassets/FEMA106/
Of the thirty schools built in the 1950s, only Mahalia Jackson Elementary is slated for renovation. All other modernist schools are slated for demolition.

The OPSB and BESE approval of the School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish (SFMPOP) may effectively erase mid-century modern school facilities from the cultural and architectural fabric of New Orleans. In the spring of 2008, DOCOMOMO Louisiana successfully nominated four of these schools to the Louisiana Landmarks Society Most Endangered List.

Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, 1955
2300 Dumaine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
Charles R. Colbert, architect
Progressive Architecture citation

Thomy Lafon Elementary School, 1954
2601 Seventh Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
Curtis and Davis, architects
AIA Honor Award

George Washington Carver Junior - Senior High School, 1958
3059 Higgins Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana
Curtis and Davis, architects
Progressive Architecture First Design Award

McDonogh No. 39 / Avery Alexander Elementary School, 1952
5800 St. Roch Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana
Goldstein, Parham and Labouisse; Freret and Wolf; Curtis and Davis, architects
First modern public school in New Orleans

In A Guide to the Architecture of New Orleans 1699-1959, Samuel Wilson, Jr. cites twenty-five of the thirty public schools which were built in the 1950s. Of these, ten have been demolished or are slated for demolition. Of the remaining fifteen mid-century modern schools, fourteen were assessed as "complete replacement." While many of these buildings were clearly damaged by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent inundation, some are merely victims of neglect. The Recovery School District is indeed in the process of recovering. However, that is not an excuse for the wholesale demolition of mid-century modern public school architecture from the city of New Orleans. These schools were designed with respect to the city's environment and the structures are ripe for sustainable rehabilitation and reuse.

All of the schools suffered from deferred maintenance and general neglect under the governance of the Orleans Parish School Board. The primary structures at the Phillis Wheatley and Thomy Lafon Elementary Schools are elevated, but ground floor adjunct spaces were inundated. McDonogh No. 39 /Avery Alexander and George Washington Carver Schools were heavily inundated. The school facilities were cleared of materials and have been boarded up. These buildings have all been vacant since the storm.
In 1952, Charles R. Colbert was named the architect in charge of the new Office of Planning and Construction. He initiated a study of physical plant and invited local firms to submit designs for review in architectural competitions for the new schools. Architecture firms involved in this mid-century modern renaissance include: August Perez and Associates; Burk, LeBreton and Lamantia; Charles R. Colbert; Curtis and Davis; Favrot, Reed, Mathes and Bergman; Freret and Wolf; Goldstein, Parham and Labouisse; and Ricciuti Associates. Several mid-century school facilities were recognized by national architecture journals and organizations for their design merit. The Thomy Lafon School (1954, Curtis & Davis) received the AIA Honor Award. Progressive Architecture recognized the Phillis Wheatley School (1955, Charles R. Colbert). In 1957 Curtis & Davis earned Progressive Architecture's highest honor, the First Design Award, in for the innovative George Washington Carver Junior and Senior High Schools. New Orleans mid-century modern architects were not just making headlines and history. They were creating models of a regional modernism, inventive designs which are of a place, by a place and for a place.

While McDonogh no. 39 / Avery Alexander Elementary School in Gentilly did not receive any awards, it was nonetheless recognized as a model facility and was the first modern school built in New Orleans. McDonogh No. 39 is a "finger school," with four lengths of classrooms connected at one end to a broad wing of administrative offices. The bands of classrooms are connected by an exterior corridor on one side. Both sides of the classrooms and the hall have operable aluminum and glass windows, so they benefit from ample natural light and ventilation. In addition, the hall also filters the sunlight from the classroom, reducing heat gain. Grassy courtyards fill the space between the stretches of classrooms. While the school flooded post-Katrina, the design of the structure is historically significant and appropriate to our climate. The architects of record were Goldstein, Parham and Labouisse, in association with Freret & Wolf, and Curtis & Davis.

The Phillis Wheatley Elementary School is by far one of the most compelling monuments of the era. It is the culmination of a series of design innovations produced by Charles R. Colbert, one of the primary instigators of change in the public school facilities. Colbert describes how the formal structure of the Phillis Wheatley School was informed by the desire to create additional play space for the children on a relatively compact urban site.

"The city building code was interpreted to allow Wheatley to be a one-floor structure. Because of this decision, the design could combine the advantages of an exposed steel structure, without fireproofing, while concentrating its reduced weight on pile supports. The entire classroom structure was raised above grade to allow the enlargement of a diminutive play area and to create a play yard. Conventional post-and-beam construction would have created a field of hazardous columns throughout the play area while the use of the full effective depth of the cantilevered steel trusses eliminated most of these obstructions. The entire classroom structure was housed within twelve shop fabricated trusses and the twenty-two classrooms were located within this simple floor-to-ceiling structural envelope. Secondary steel joists spanned from truss to truss and supported the horizontal roof membrane, while floors consisted of six inch deep double tongue and groove wood decking that spanned between trusses. The truss, better recognized in bridges, thus became more than the support for a roof system. This old and widely used structural assembly allowed efficient shop fabrication, simple assembly, and a reduced job site construction period. The raison d'etre, to free the play yard, developed into something more.

The result was stunning. Airy, light-filled classrooms, elevated from the street, gave the effect of a modern tree-house, an appropriate and poetic setting for a child's classroom. The elevation of the Phillis Wheatley School protected the classrooms from the post-Katrina inundation of the city. Sadly the building is a victim of decades of neglect. The facility does require some intervention. The steel trusses could certainly benefit from a coat of paint. Also, the clear glass was replaced long ago with cheaper opaque plexi-glass panels. Improvements in glass and automated HVAC make it possible to renovate Wheatley to perform better than originally.

Both Phillis Wheatley and Thomy Lafon Elementary Schools were built on raised piers that saved them from the floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina. The open space underneath the elevated structure helps cool the building in our climate. This structural conceit is borrowed from the French Colonial tradition. Breezes naturally cool an elevated structure. In the case of Wheatley and Lafon, the elevated structures also created a wealth of covered play space, protected from the elements. Both schools were built with a sensitivity to local environmental conditions. The exterior walls were glass in Wheatley, mostly glass in Lafon. This gave the children new perspectives, as well as an abundance of natural light and ventilation. It is tragic that so many of the later generation of school buildings were designed as nearly windowless detention cells.
Colbert encouraged his fellow architects to consider the "emotional and spiritual needs of children" in their design of school buildings.

The George Washington Carver Junior-Senior High School was praised as a model school for the nation. Integrating a junior and senior high school on the same campus as an elementary school allowed the schools to share some common facilities.

The striking design of the auditorium with its concrete vault and hinged bridge-like buttresses helped establish Curtis and Davis as architects on the international stage. Progressive Architecture's recognition of this school with its highest design award in 1958 is a tribute to the architectural quality of Carver High School as well as the design reforms set in place by Charles Colbert.
Buildings dating from the modernist era are currently entering a period of extreme vulnerability. Their architectural and mechanical systems are reaching the end of their life cycle and are in need of re-investment. The clean and clear modernist vision is likewise marred by neglect and unsympathetic alterations during the past decades. While 19th century buildings sometimes become more romantic as they decay, the results of deferred maintenance on mid-century modern buildings are unflattering at best. In addition, the modernist style has yet to reach an era of broad understanding and appreciation by the general public. In New Orleans, the economic argument for demolition and new construction inevitably prevails. We need to preserve the most significant buildings of the twentieth century for our city's future.

Continued education and advocacy for these structures will raise awareness of their significance, quality and importance to the architectural and social history of New Orleans. Increased acceptance of modern buildings as legitimate structures to be maintained, rehabilitated, preserved and restored will help eliminate the threat of demolition. Conservation and re-use of existing buildings is also a widely acknowledged strategy for the increased overall sustainability of a city's building stock.

Modern and contemporary architecture has been seen by some as having had a negative impact. In particular, historic cities that lost significant urban fabric through urban renewal have been averse to the buildings that came in its place. While there has been opposition to their retention, attitudes have been changing. There is a growing appreciation for their role in the urban fabric as a record of diverse values and cultural movements.

New Orleans' current population is approximately half of its 1960 population, so there is less need for so many facilities. It appears that the plan is to clear the lots while FEMA funds are available for demolition and rebuild as necessary. However, in that process, struggling neighborhoods are deprived of a potential community center, artists' studio complex or musicians' practice space. These buildings are ripe for adaptive re-use and they belong to the people of New Orleans. Their structures are solidly engineered, designed in sympathy with our climate, and have become part of our cultural and historic fabric.

The renovation of a modernist school that was built in a moment of sheer optimism can serve as a symbol for the city's rebirth. We can recover the future from the past.

Francine Stock
Visual Resource Curator, Tulane University, School of Architecture, New Orleans

Monday, December 15, 2008

National Maritime Union, 1954

The National Maritime Union Hall in New Orleans was Albert Ledner's first major commercial project. Up to that time, Ledner's work was solely residential. Last spring, the Regional Modernism class at Tulane had the opportunity to interview Mr. Ledner. He showed the class his pages and pages of calculations he had run in the process of designing this dynamic structure. The following is an excerpt from our conversation.

They wanted a modern building. They were in an old structure down in the French Quarter. They felt as though they wanted new digs. So they bought this property on Tchopitoulas and Washington..... We needed a roof structure to span 100 feet without any columns and an open space. We weren't concerned with having to add a second floor. And so I had experimented earlier, I think here at Tulane as a student with corrugated structures and the strength inherent in corrugating any item. Thin material in corrugation has a great deal of strength. So it was a combination of that early idea of corrugating with a circular building.

I didn't have a structural engineer at the time. I worked out the structure and we built it.... During the framing one of the city inspectors happened to be passing by and saw it and said, 'My God that roof will never hold. It's going to collapse.' Because of the very light framing. So they stopped the construction.They said we had to load it with sandbags to see if it's going to hold up. Which we did.

- Albert C. Ledner, Spring 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Save the Date

Preservation MattersSaturday, January 31, 2009
Lavin Bernick Center, Kendall Cram Lecture Hall
Tulane University
Keynote speaker: Robert Ivy, FAIA
Editor-in-chief, Architectural Record
conference organized by Kenneth Schwartz, FAIA
Dean of the School of Architecture


Thursday, December 4, 2008

glass chairs (fused + stitched + suspended)

Chair Maquette 0X.05, originally uploaded by francinestock.

What: 'The Living Room' an evolving installation

Who: Melissa Roberts, with Jessica Goldfinch, Kurt Schlough, Cynthia Scott and Francine Stock

Where: BECA Gallery, 527 St. Joseph Street map

When: Opening reception, Saturday, December 6, 2008, 6-9pm

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

FEMA 106 public comment period on the Schools

The fifteen day FEMA 106 public comment period on the schools affected by the School Facilities Master Plan of Orleans Parish begins December 2, 2008.

The Master Plan was approved by the OPSB and BESE last month. Mid-century modern school sites which are slated for landbanking or demolition include the four recognized by Louisiana Landmarks Most Endangered list: Phillis Wheatley Elementary, Thomy Lafon Elementary, Avery Alexander Elementary and Carver High School.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Neo-Geo Notebook

MapWarper, originally uploaded by regional.modernism.
Andrew Turner came to New Orleans last week to meet up with NetSquared New Orleans and faculty at the Tulane School of Architecture. Both meetings were quite informative and very valuable. These are a few of my notes.

1. MapWarper. This tool is in development and indeed comes with the following warning: Proto-Alpha - expect it to break and stuff to get deleted!

MapWarper is a tool for creating a custom basemap. My source map was from a Tulane student project in 1950, documented on 35mm slide and scanned into the New Orleans Virtual Archive. Basically the user indicates matching points between two maps. And a new map layer is born. I picked a tricky source, so my map is a bit more warped than it should be. I asked Andrew about the next step after MapWarper and I think that's where it flies a bit over my head. Nevertheless a cool tool to play with a have a better understanding of how one could create a custom basemap for a presentation. I would love to have a virtual library of historic basemaps stored in layers, so one could view data on different maps. Just layering two maps together can provide some interesting information about the changes in urban fabric over time.
2. EyeFi Explore. This is a souped up memory card. It can automatically upload photos to your computer or online photo storage service, like flickr or picasa. It also geocodes the photos (and records this info in photo EXIF profile) IF there is a wireless hotspot. I used this card last week in a trial session. It worked fairly well, but was unfortunately not accurate enough. And was of course ineffective in sites without wireless hotspots, like the Lower Ninth Ward. Interesting tool, but not as good as a gps.
3. Flickr Commons. Another great resource. Some top institutions (Library of Congress, Smithsonian) are uploading archival images with no known copyright restrictions to the Flickr Commons for all to use. The Commons encourages the public to assist with the description and tagging of the photos.
4. SlideShare. This service allows one to upload a powerpoint or keynote presentation. Very nice. Review Andrew's presentation at Tulane here: Rebuilding a City through Community Participation, Neogeography and GIS
Many thanks, Andrew!

Monday, November 10, 2008

NeoGeography in New Orleans

Andrew Turner (High Earth Orbit) is a neogeographer, a thoroughly modern mapmaker. His products include Mapufacture, recently acquired by Fortius One, and PocketMaps, paper maps of dynamic data. He is the Chief Technological Officer for the GeoCommons which integrates public data into publicly accessible and modifiable map formats. Maps for the rest of us.

I had the pleasure of working with Andrew on the NetSquared mashup challenge in May. Together with Alan Gutierrez, we presented on the active and ongoing process of Citizen Monitoring of the Recovery. See Squanderedheritage. We discussed ways that extraordinary citizens had responded to this profound need for information as their neighborhoods were actively altered in the aftermath of the storm. Documenting the city and its myriad conditions. Then uploading those images to flickr and picasa. Accessing public information and creating google maps of demolitions. Trying to link the photos and the maps to tell our stories.

My Regional Modernism class was inspired by this activity to create our own maps of modernist sites. This facilitated the documentation of these buildings which are vanishing from the urban fabric at rapid pace. The work continues. Thanks to a NetSquared grant, we are able to bring Andrew Turner to New Orleans for these special events. He is eager to meet up and help us determine the right tools for our mapping needs. Two events are scheduled this week. Free and open to the public.

Net2NO meetup #3:
NeoGeography and the Geospatial Web experience
Tuesday 11.11.08
6 pm

in the back room@ the Bridge Lounge
1201 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA
please rsvp here


Practical NeoGeography: Integrating GIS in the classroom and the field
Wednesday 11.12.08

Tulane School of Architecture Richardson Memorial 204
The St. Charles Avenue streetcar stops in front of Tulane. The Richardson Memorial Building is the second rusticated stone building back from the front circle.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Regional Modernism Endorses Planning

Vote yes on the amendment to the city charter to give the master plan the force of law.

We also heart Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jack Robinson's Canal Street

photo: Jack Robinson Archive

who: Jack Robinson
what: an exhibit of twenty-one photographs of Canal Street c . 1950
where: Sheraton New Orleans Hotel lobby, 500 Canal Street
when: opening reception, Thursday October 30 from 5 - 7 pm
then: Prospect.Everyone,
Thursday October 30, from 7-10 pm @ 500 Julia Street

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Club Desire (THREATENED)

2604 Desire, originally uploaded by Karen Apricot New Orleans.
The Cornerstones Project celebrates "the everyday monuments and gathering places of New Orleans neighborhoods." The Neighborhood Story Project and Tulane City Center collaborated to produce the Cornerstones Book which is already going into its second printing. They are continuing to grow their registry of these often overlooked social and cultural landmarks. Anyone can nominate a structure or site of social significance. Below is the text from my nomination of Club Desire.

Name of public place: CLUB DESIRE
Address/location: 2604 Desire St. corner of Law
Neighborhood: Upper Ninth Ward, Florida Development

Why does your place deserve to be nominated? Explain in detail why this place is important, such as how it tells an important story from history, houses cultural activities and traditions, serves as an important space for socializing, or enhances the beauty or artistic character of your neighborhood.

The club was likely built sometime between 1920-1940 in an a hybrid mission / moderne style. The entrance was lined in glass blocks which glowed when the club had live music. The club hosted the finest of New Orleans jazz, rhythm and blues: Fats Domino, Deacon John, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday.

Please include any details about the site or physical features if the place. Also, are you aware of any physical damage or plans that threaten the future of the place?

It is on the imminent health threat list. On Monday 10.20.08, the Club Desire was slated for review by the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee.

Are you aware of any other individuals or organizations that may have more information about the place you nominated?

In May WDSU reported that attempts were being made by Marguerite Doyle-Johnston to save the club. YouTube
FutureProof is designing a new sustainable house for Ms. Doyle-Johnston who hopes to save the Club and renovate it into a community center.

Fats Domino would be a great interview. According to this interview with Rick Coleman, Fats Domino was discovered in 1949 playing at The Hideaway across the street from Club Desire.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

National Maritime Union (under renovation)

National Maritime Union
Last week, I went to Albert Ledner's National Maritime Union to view status of the current renovation. Unfortunately the exterior glazed brick has been covered in plaster. The glazed brick interior is intact. At least for now.

see new photos in flickr.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

ELEMENTAL :: art opening

I have a new body of glass work on display at the BECA Gallery this month. Three of the pieces include multi-faceted glass chains. The individual links are assembled and fused from multiple layers of small glass bricks. In BRIDGE and MANDALA :: MANDORLA the chains are strapped to woven rubber canvas made from recycled bicycle inner tubes and stretched across a wooden frame. The rubber and glass play off each other in a pure material dialogue of tension, elasticity and rigidity. A series of TEXT::TILES continue an ongoing interest in the evolution of language and drawing and the correlations between books and walls. My art work is heavily influenced by my studies of bookmaking, architecture and philosophy. The center piece of the show, a monumental WOVEN PANEL, was previously displayed at the Contemporary Arts Center. The fused glass panel is assembled from pieces of recycled mid-century green jalousie glass. The panel is bound and suspended with sisal rope from the center beam of the gallery.

The show officially opens Saturday night from 6-9 pm in conjunction with Art for Arts' Sake. There will be a sneak preview tonight from 6-7.

BECA Gallery (map)
527 St. Joseph St. New Orleans


Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Audubon Charter Extension, originally uploaded by New Orleans Lady.


The Recovery School District (RSD) has requested written comments to their recently issued master plan “A Blueprint: Building 21st Century Schools for New Orleans.” While the master plan establishes important goals for the re-visioning of the public school system, we believe that important issues regarding urban planning, sustainability, and historic preservation are not being addressed.

The deadline for comments is tomorrow, October 1st, and we are urging everyone to let the RSD know that these issues are important for our community, our organization, and for establishing an approach towards adapting existing buildings to address the needs of individual neighborhoods. The email address to which you may send your comment is:

Of utmost concern is that over 56 schools are threatened with closure or demolition. While we are not proposing a mandate to save every school building under threat, we are greatly concerned that there is no specific plan for utilizing these buildings, and we feel that the demolition of historic buildings is not appropriate.

The following three statements are intended for you to utilize in your communication with the RSD. Feel free to use any of these statements to supplement your position or simply cut and paste one of these into your letter. The important issue here is to let the RSD know that we want more specific plans for these sites and that we want to preserve our culture and history that is embodied in these buildings.


1. Landbanking as concerns responsible city planning:

There are over 56 sites within the plan currently proposed for demolition and/or landbanking in New Orleans. Many of these sites currently exist in what are already heavily blighted conditions without proper planning or address for solutions for the sites. Without an idea or plan in place for what might be or could be on these sites, there is a high possibility that these properties will simply exists as empty, gated lots without purpose or programming for what could be many years. Some of these demolitions have replacement buildings planned, some will simply be boarded up, and those that are demolished will have the lots seeded and fenced off, waiting for the prospect of development sometime in the future. With a rash of demolition activities pending throughout the city, it is imperative that as a community, we step back and evaluate the long-term loss of the culture, diversity and history that these structures represent before they are torn down and hauled to the landfill.

It is understood, not only from current conditions in the city, but from a great variety of examples nationwide, that this type of clearing and closing off of land creates further problematic conditions (as opposed to solutions) in the areas in which they occur. Without active buildings, programming, people, and access these sites can easily become uncared for empty lots that potentially create conditions with undesirable outcomes that go beyond the obvious negative visual impact. Unlit, fenced and deactivated lots become literal barriers between activated spaces for those that live and work in these communities. It is against the very notion of a city plan, or planning itself, to create empty lots in areas in which there are already so many unused and non-activated spaces. The very notion of planning consists of creating a purpose, a need, resources, and opportunities to further enhance and allow for an engaged community. Creating empty lots with unknown futures is simply bad planning. This condition already exists, and it has not proven to be a fruitful means to engage the surrounding community. Empty, unused space only provides people with unsightly lots and unused land, resulting in an overall waste for the public and the city. We need to promote neighborhood development through targeted areas and infill development.

2. Sustainability and Adaptive Reuse:

It is clear that one of the most environmentally responsible reactions to a building or site that is no longer needed is that of finding a new purpose for the EXISTING building and site. The prevalent rallying cry seems to be “anything new is better than what we had.” Complete replacement in lieu of a sustainable approach based on renovations, adaptive reuse and infill development is simply not supportive of the sustainable mandate that the RSD is requiring for it’s new schools construction criteria. The process of planning, design, demolition and replacement is not only more costly than renovations, it takes more time and it is not sustainable.

While it is easy to tear and build new, this is a great waste not only of the material and structure that is tossed into a landfill, but also as concerns the secondary materials and wastes involved with building new. Within the current schools plan, there has already been an example of a school deemed as unnecessary--in terms of populations served—that has been given a new and needed purpose. This example is Mahalia Jackson, which is now being transformed into an educational center for young mothers and children. Taking a site which no longer demands the population to serve a school, and in turn creating a site to serve a community with a much-needed service, is a prime example for a successful adaptive reuse project. The building is preserved, upgraded and transformed for a current condition and direct need. This current example should be further investigated as to what methods were adopted, etc. to make this happen. Was this a singular gesture? How and what paid for the outcome? Assuming there are others, why are so many sites not considered for the same result? How can we think about these site and structures as OPPORTUNITIES to further engage the surrounding areas and community with solutions as opposed to providing them with open lots that serve nothing and no one for the immediate future? Have other organizations been involved with creating opportunities, responses and purpose for the sites? How can we, as an organization, help to identify and pair the organizations with purpose and need with these sites? If the objective is education, can we further identify other organizations with the same mission to assist in not only programming these sites, but also to identify and retain funds for the same purpose?

Renovation and rehabilitation of these school buildings can become symbolic of the city’s ability to recover and renew itself.

3. Historic Preservation
Many of the sites deemed for demolition have been recognized as having historic significance, and should be treated with this in mind. These identified historic resources speak of a place, time, and culture -- something that should be retained for future generations to learn from. We have the great opportunity to retain these sites, and the history of New Orleans, while simultaneously creating new uses for these buildings.

There are many buildings that can and should be saved including a number facilities designed by E.A. Christy and the Priestly School of Architecture and Construction.

Of particular interest is the unique design of the Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School located at 2300 Dumaine Street in Historic Treme, which is currently slated for demolition and replacement in the second phase of the master plan.

It is imperative that the RSD secures the preservation of these buildings by taking the responsibility, as the owners, of ensuring that their fate is a positive one, and does not end with demolition or neglect. Whether these historically significant buildings are part of the public school system under the master plan, or are sold to outside parties for redevelopment in the community, the RSD should chose a course of action that plans for these sites to retain the historic properties that enrich the city.

Many of these buildings would adapt well to updated facilities and an integration of sustainable design elements. An adaptive approach that maintains sensitivity to the historically significant elements would be a positive and successful route for retaining these sites and integrating dual goals of preservation and sustainable design / adaptive reuse. This approach would make the introduction of these sites in the communities that much more successful, as not only historically educational and culturally rich components, but as models of an innovative approach that combines up-to-date facilities for the students with a successful sustainable design approach and the retention of historically and culturally significant fabric in the city for the enjoyment and education of our future generations.

We need to establish and promote an advocacy for preservation and conservation.

International Longshoreman's Association (ACTIVE DEMOLITION)

"As one vitally interested in the contemporary world - one who welcomes living in the Twentieth Century and nourished the hope of contributing to it - I have independently come to the conclusion that the preservation of that which is good, be it old or new, is absolutely essential to our sanity as well as our understanding of ourselves, and to our own progress. We make a mistake if we equate old with good, but when we do find these coexisting then there is the greatest imperative to preserve the old for only by doing so can we have a sense of time and sense of place without which we have only a present, ever fleeting - which is an intolerable and unbearable state for man. When therefore, I say that the preservation of the good and the old is essential for man's sanity, I do not overstate the case."

John Lawrence, 1964

Modernism and Desire: A Streetcar Tour of Endangered Buildings

Building Canal Street
Building Canal Street, originally uploaded by regional.modernism.
AIA New Orleans is proud to partner with DOCOMOMO-New Orleans to present, "Modernism and Desire: A Streetcar Tour of Endangered Buildings" a streetcar tour taking place on historic Canal Street. This tour is presented in conjunction with a nationwide day of Modern architecture tours, lectures and other special events in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of DOCOMOMO-US.
From end to end, Canal Street boasts a collection of Modern buildings, the architectural features and distinct elements of which are best appreciated from a comfortable perch on a slow-moving streetcar. Many of the buildings, endangered since they were flooded by Katrina’s waters, sit in stark contrast to the recovery efforts achieved in the surrounding Mid-City neighborhoods. “Modernism and Desire” will emphasize the goals of DOCOMOMO-US Louisiana, organized to promote and protect modern architecture and urban design in and around the New Orleans area.

The guided tour on a chartered New Orleans streetcar will be narrated by local architect, John Klingman. The “Modernism and Desire” tour will end at the foot of Canal Street, just steps from the city’s Art for Art’s Sake celebration. Cost per person is $25.00 for DOCOMOMO-US members and $35.00 for non-members in advance. Seating is limited, and advance reservations are highly recommended.

04 Oct 2008
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
tour begins and ends:
World Trade Center
2 Canal Street
New Orleans, LA

To register for the event, click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Petition the Plan

Eli Ackerman has been blogging the School Facilities Plan here. He writes:

As of this moment, the Orleans Parish School Board and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are scheduled to vote on the master plan within days though the plan was released in the midst of Gustav panic and is close to 2000 pages. The case for extension of the public comment deadline based on the insufficient amount of time the public has had to review and provide comment would be plenty compelling by itself. Yet, disturbingly, we've learned that some members of the Orleans Parish School Board, who are, and I can't stress this enough, directly responsible for the approval or rejection of an absolutely critical guiding master plan, HAVE NOT READ IT THEMSELVES.

The public comment period on the plan currently ends October 1, 2008. Save Our Schools New Orleans has created an online petition to extend the public review period to January 1, 2009. Please sign this petition.

We the undersigned urge you as our local and state public education leaders to extend the Orleans Parish Schools Master Facilities Plan Public Review & Comment Period for an additional 90 days to January 1, 2009.

There is magnificent descent and confusion within our community regarding this recently released document and we citizens must have the extended period in order to hold meaningful conversations within our own groups and with planners so as to make informed decisions regarding our thoughts on the plan. Furthermore, the current sitting OPSB only has 2 members seeking reelection, therefore we feel that the newly seated OPSB members will need to hear our well thought out concerns and suggestions regarding the plan as they will be the body that we will hold accountable for the implementation in the years to come.

In closing, we urge each member of the Orleans Parish School Board and LA Board of Elementary & Secondary Education to postpone your vote to approve the current Orleans Parish Schools Master Facilities Plan until after January 1, 2009. Thank you in advance for your support regarding the concerns of New Orleans citizens.

OUR Schools. OUR Future. OUR Plans.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rabouin High School (LAND BANKED by SFMPOP)

Rabouin High School
Rabouin High School, E.A. Christy, architect, 1936, photo: Mara Saxer. Originally uploaded by regional.modernism.
What is land banking? In the case of the School Facilities Plan for Orleans Parish, the term has not been adequately defined. Generally, a "land bank" is the land that a builder or developer has that is available for development.* Over fifty school facilities are slated for "land banking" in the plan, although the fate of the facilities is not specified, some may be sold to developers for adaptive reuse, others may be demolished. What is the fate of Rabouin? McMain? Audubon Charter Extension? Green? McDonogh City Park? All of these schools (and more) are slated to close in later phases of the plan. Will they be demolished? Converted into condos? Why do the planners want to close these schools?

Tonight's the night. The first of only two public meetings on the plan will be held Thursday 9.18.08 at 5:30 pm at McDonogh #35 Auditorium, 1331 Kerlerec Street. The public comment period has been extended to October 1, the date of the second and final public meeting.

email comments to: masterplan@rsdla.net

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Farnsworth House Flooded

farnsworth house 2, originally uploaded by 33 and a Third.

Unreal. So absorbed in our local natural and political disasters, I almost missed this story. Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House was inundated with floodwater from the Fox River due to Hurricanes Ike and Lowell. See: Preservation Nation and http://www.farnsworthhouse.org for more details.

Monday, September 8, 2008

ATTN :: Architects

Phillis Wheatley School
Phillis Wheatley School, originally uploaded by regional.modernism. Photo: Frank Lotz Miller
You have until October 2, 2008 at 2pm to submit a Statement of Qualification to the Recovery School District to participate in the first $700 million phase of the School Facilities Master Plan.

see: Louisiana Department of Education Bids (LaPAC)

Public Notice-Invitation for
New School Design Services

The Recovery School District is seeking Statements of Qualifications (SOQ) from highly qualified Architecture and/or Engineering Firms interested in providing complete Design Services for:

Solicitation No. 2008-05

Statements of Qualifications shall only by submitted on Recovery School District Standard Qualifications Form RSD-AE dated 08-08. A sample form is attached and an electronic file is available on the Department of Education’s website at:


In addition to the above website location, interested firms may obtain an official Request for Qualifications (RFQ) package from:

Recovery School District
c/o JACOBS/CSRS Program Managers
Attention: Stacey Rayford
909 Poydras Street, Suite 1200
New Orleans, LA 70112
(504) 592-0155

Only those firms that have obtained the official RFQ package for this solicitation from the Recovery School District or from the Department of Education will be considered by the RSD A/E Selection Committee.

The original and five (5) copies of the Statement of Qualifications Standard Form RSD-A/E, dated 08-08 shall be delivered to Ms. Patti J. Wallace; Director of Purchasing and Contracts; 1201 North 3rd Street, Room 5-242; Baton Rouge, LA 70804.

Prime consultants must use the Standard Form RSD-AE Prime dated 08-08. Only Prime Consultant forms will be required for submission. Statements of Qualifications for this project will be accepted until 2:00 P.M., Central Standard Time, October 2, 2008.

Statements of Qualifications that have not been received by the above aforementioned deadline date and time will be rejected. Additionally, failure to submit all of the information on Standard Form RSD-AE dated 08-08 shall be considered non-responsive and may result in the Qualifications Statement being rejected.

The Recovery School District is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Therefore, all respondents are encouraged to utilize minority participation to the extent possible through the use of small, disadvantaged, and women-owned businesses as suppliers or sub-consultants.

Updates, changes, amendments, and answers to questions to this Solicitation will be posted to Department of Education website listed above.

Lest we forget, the School Facilities Master Plan is still under review. We just lost a solid week due to Hurricane Gustav. The Governor has declared another state of emergency due to the threat of Hurricane Ike. One would certainly hope the Orleans Parish School Board will extend the period for public comment, which currently ends September 19.

Please email your comments on the plan to masterplan@rsdla.net

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Save Neighborhood Schools

Douglass High School, 3820 St. Claude Avenue, E.A. Christy, architect, 1940. Non-federal PWA Project. Currently open. Scheduled to close in 2011.

The School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish is available online, but since it encompasses over 2000 pages, I've had trouble assessing the plan in digital format. There are supposedly copies in the libraries, but not at the branches Uptown. Plus, I'd like to have my own copy to really dig into it. So I was initally pleased to hear the plan was available for purchase at Letterman's Printing. (504) 821-9997

But I was not prepared for the sticker shock. The Blueprint ($118) requires color printing, as it includes maps of the current situation and phases of the plan. The supplementary material printed in in black and white more than double that cost (Educational Program Requirements $18, Building Standards $23 and the 1400 page Building Assessments $97).

A $700 million plan in phase one. Fifty-sixty-something schools landbanked. And they can't give every neighborhood group and school that requests one a copy of this plan?

from today's Times-Picayune. Letter to the Editor

Re: "Mid-City residents criticize school plan," Metro, Aug. 23.

The Recovery School District plans to close and "landbank" Dibert Elementary School in Mid-City and leave Morris F.X. Jeff closed. I urge the RSD to reconsider their decision.

Both school buildings are very similar to the Andrew Wilson School building in Broadmoor, which is being renovated. They are no more obsolete than the buildings that house the Lusher charter schools, Audubon Montessori, Arthur Ashe and other schools Uptown.

Paul Vallas, the RSD superintendent, was quoted as saying that the RSD wants "to build a brand new school on a larger site that can serve more kids." Smaller schools may be a better option, though, because they provide a close community of students, parents, teachers and support staff.

My children attended Dibert Elementary School in the 1980s and early 1990s. Children from the neighborhood as well as those from other neighborhoods benefited from the strong academic program, the emphasis on the arts, the proximity to City Park and the close and diverse community that developed at the school.

The RSD should let Dibert remain open and renovate Morris F.X. Jeff.

Patricia Roger

New Orleans

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Banksy's in the House

gray ghost, originally uploaded by toaminorplace.

and here and here and here

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eleanor McMain High School (THREATENED)

Eleanore McMain Secondary School, originally uploaded by anthonyturducken.
5712 South Claiborne, E.A. Christy, architect, 1930

At the Orleans Parish School Board meeting last week, Una Anderson questioned the logic of a plan which would close both Cohen and McMain High Schools uptown.

"That's all of Uptown without a single high school except for Lusher High, " she said.

The School Facilities Plan calls for shrinking the number of high school sites, but increasing the size of the new campuses. The plan aims for sites of at least 10 acres for high schools.

School Facilities Master Plan:
Currently: Open (7th to 12th).
Phase 1 proposal: Will close in 2012
New location undetermined; possible location is site of renovated Booker T. Washington.

To comment on the school plan email: masterplan@rsdla.net

Friday, August 22, 2008

Adapt old schools to new uses

Thomy Lafon Elementary School (THREATENED)
Thomy Lafon Elementary School (THREATENED), 2601 Seventh Street, Curtis and Davis, architects, AIA Honor Award, 1954. Photo: Frank Lotz Miller. Copyright: Tulane Libraries, Special Collections, Southeastern Architectural Archive.
Today the Thomy Lafon School sits abandoned, high and dry, in the center of what was once the Magnolia / CJ Peete Housing Development. The School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish does not provide for its renovation and does not indicate future plans for any school facility on that site. The building itself could be adapted to other uses: a community resource center, an arts and cultural center, or a small business incubator. New Orleans has a history of this type of adaptive reuse of old school sites. The McDonogh No. 10 School in central city has been redeveloped into Lindy's Place, a residence for women in transition. If school facilities are no longer needed by the school district, they can still assist in the recovery and rebirth of their neighborhoods in other ways. Today's Times-Picayune features a letter to the editor from Wayne Troyer, Architect.
Re: "Building boom," Page 1, Aug. 17.

As we progress with the rebuilding of our public schools, we must consider not only the immediate needs of the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board but the long-term goals of neighborhoods affected by the master plan.

With the extent of demolition and replacement proposed, it is imperative that as a community, we step back and evaluate the long-term loss of the culture, diversity and history that these structures represent before they are torn down and hauled to the landfill.

Complete replacement in lieu of renovations and adaptive reuse is simply reckless and immoral.

Land-banking (demolition of existing buildings, seeding the land, fencing it off and then waiting for development sometime in the future) is not a strategy for strengthening neighborhoods.

Renovation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of school buildings can become symbolic of the city's ability to recover and renew itself.

Demolition and replacement show that we have lost respect for our history.

The clean slate approach, at this time of scarcity and escalating cost of building materials, is simply wrong.

Wayne Troyer recently worked with Vincent James Associates Architects on the renovation of Tulane's University Center, also by Curtis Davis, into the new Lavin-Bernick Center.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Metropolis :: point of view

Metropolis blog

In the Metropolis blog Daniela Morell concludes:

The New Orleans’s public school system is notoriously bad and deserves improvement. But is it necessary for the city’s architectural heritage to take such a beating in the process? “It’s always more challenging to retrofit,” says Stock, “but in a case where you have a significant and innovative structure there’s great value there.” Add to the mix environmental considerations, such as the master plan’s recommendation that new schools aim for LEED Silver certification or the ever growing detritus of the old New Orleans piling up in the city’s landfills, and preserving the embodied energy and materials of these schools takes on yet another level of significance. This is a unique time to start fresh with the New Orleans school system, but the city’s architectural history should not have to be erased wholesale to achieve new goals.

Read the complete story here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

RSD analysis map :: layer one :: the land banked

Sixty-six properties. Some are open. Some are closed. Some are already demolished. None are projected to be viable school facilities in the future, according to the most recent and nearly final School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish.
The plan was announced in the Times-Picayune Sunday edition. The story included a map of the new construction or renovation of twenty-eight schools in the first phase (approximately five years). A facing layout listed the other ninety-seven facilities that will not be part of the first phase of this building boom. Of these, thirty-one are slated for future renovation, though no funds are secured for those schools. Unless the other sixty-six are "land banked."
Land banking can mean many things, most usually selling the building or demolishing the building and selling the land. Some of the sixty-six land banked properties are actually slated for new construction in "future phases", also unfunded. Architects of these potentially land-banked schools include E. A. Christy, Charles Colbert, Curtis and Davis, Moise Goldstein, and Henry Howard. One of Christy's facilities, the Lockett School has already been demolished, though there are no plans for a New School until "future phases" of the plan, i.e. sometime in the next thirty years.
The plan will be presented to the Orleans Parish School Board Tuesday 8.19.08 at 5 p.m. at McDonogh #35 High School, 1331 Kerlerec Street.

Source of data: Times-Picayune 8.17.08 print edition, page A-11.
Google Map by Francine Stock

UPDATE 8.22.08 This map has been posted to the Save Our Schools New Orleans site.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Texaco Building

Texaco Building
Texaco Building, originally uploaded by regional.modernism.
One of the early examples of International Style corporate architecture in New Orleans, the Texaco Building stands alone on the 1500 block of Canal Street. This seventeen story steel-frame skyscraper was designed by Claude E. Hooton. Construction began in 1951.* In its time, the Texcaco Building epitomized the view and reality of New Orleans as a booming metropolis. Please click here and here to see it in its glory, vintage photos from the Historic New Orleans Collection, Louisiana Digital Libraries.

Currently the building suffers from neglect in the form of multiple broken windows and major graffiti. This condition challenges us to appreciate its architectural value. When Modernist buildings are left to decay, they do not take on the "elegant and decadent" character identified with our 19th century buildings. We see broken, we see tags, we see danger. The Modernist dream is shattered by such neglect.

To its rescue? the Downtown Development District and Fred Radtke.
According to today's City Business:

The Downtown Development District is partnering with Fred Radtke, also known as "The Gray Ghost," to remove a large-scale, high-profile graffiti tag on the top floors of the former Texaco building on Canal Street.

The DDD will provide Radtke with funds to purchase graffiti-removal solutions and paint to match the color of the building tagged with graffiti.

The funds are part of the DDD’s graffiti grant match program that pays private property owners half the cost to remove illegal spray paint from their buildings.

The Texaco Building was placed on Louisiana's National Register of Historic Places in 2006, its history chronicled by Karen Kingsley. (pdf)

*Hooton served as associate architect with Skidmore Owings Merrill on the Pan American Life Insurance Company building on upper Canal Street. He also designed the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on Broadway.
UPDATE: 8.18.08
Emailed the DDD last week with recommendations for Removing Graffiti from Historic Masonry. They replied:
Gray paint is not an agreeable solution for the DDD. Helm paint has offered to provide paint in matching colors for future efforts.
An even better solution: Instead of Fred Radtke, team up Sidney Torres
Get Sidney Torres involved in the local fight against the battle with the vandals. Sidney Torres & SDT have done a fantastic job with Garbage Disposal & Cleaning in the French Quarter and it just seems that if he was approached he would more than likely be happy to get a portable Soda Ash Blaster and combat graffiti in a sensible manner, remove it just don't cover it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

VA Hospital Site Selection Public Meeting

Charity, originally uploaded by Karen Apricot New Orleans.

A presentation of information regarding the Lindy Boggs Area - an additional site being considered as an alternative location for the replacement of the VAMC. see MAPS

Monday, August 11, 2008
Time: 7:00-9:00 pm
location of meeting: Grace Episcopal Church
3700 Canal Street
New Orleans, LA 70119

Monday, August 4, 2008


International Trade MartThe New Orleans World Trade Center (formerly International Trade Mart) is located at the foot of Canal Street, once the premier commercial thoroughfare of the city.* Positioning the new International Trade Mart (ITM) on this site was part of a major redevelopment that began in the postwar period.

In 1946 Robert Moses, the "master builder" of New York City, published his Arterial Plan for New Orleans. This included the now infamous plan for the nearly built Riverfront Expressway, a "four-lane elevated highway over the railroad tracks" from Elysian Fields Avenue to Calliope. The plan was designed to alleviate congestion and ease our traffic woes, and ironically claimed it would protect the Vieux Carre from erosion due to traffic. Preservationists argued that this elevated waterfront expressway would effectively cut off the Vieux Carre from the River on which the city was founded.

By the completion of the ITM Building in 1967, the Riverfront Expressway controversy was in high swing. The new tower (the tallest building in New Orleans until it was surpassed by the Plaza Tower in 1969) became emblematic of this fear of change and a vision of what a New New Orleans might look like. The ITM was designed by the New York architect
Edward Durell Stone, best known for the design of the Rockefeller Center. It was capped by a revolving lounge, the Top of the Mart, which featured red velvet furniture and a spectacular view of the city and its environs.**

Today the New Orleans World Trade Center is under restoration and interior conversion by architect
Frederic Schwartz FAIA, one of the principal designers of the THINK World Cultural Center in New York. Recently, Schwartz addressed the New York City Landmarks Commission in defense of the O'Toole Building by New Orleans architect Albert Ledner.

* This site is a significant point of demarcation in the New Orleanian mental compass. North, South, East and West are blurry distinctions in a city better navigated by Uptown, Downtown, Riverside and Lakeside. Uptown and Downtown historically refer to the upper and lower sides of Canal Street that separate the Spanish / French / Creole Quarter form the American Sector. But you knew that.

** The Top of the Mart was closed in the summer of 2001 and all that fabulous furniture liquidized. The revolving lounge had been purchased by Randy Gerber, who planned to transform it from the 1960s to the new millenium. He pulled out shortly after the terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center. The nightclub was eventually re-opened as Club 360.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sanlin Building

Sanlin Building
Sanlin Building, originally uploaded by regional.modernism. 442 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA
photographer: LeBoeuf source: Tulane School of Architecture, New Orleans Virtual Archive
I'm in the process of reviewing documentation of Modernist architecture along the Canal Streetcar Route and will eventually create a map of these sites. So while that is in the oven, feast your eyes on this vintage beauty. Ahhh, the Sanlin Building! One of my favorite facades in the city. While many Modernist buildings have aged in unflattering ways, the Sanlin facade is mostly intact.

The Sanlin cladding encases a Greek Revival building. Usually I am in favor of restoring building facades to their original intent. But the Sanlin is different. I tend to think of cladding as a skin, but here it's more structural. The clean lines and linkage of gold and silver aluminum panels also remind me of Grandpa's Timex, another mid century classic.