Architectural Divest

10/17/2008

Architecturally, New Orleans is known for its Creole cottages and the mixed-influences of the French Quarter. But there is an incredible concentration of mid-century architectural gems in this southern city that are under threat of immediate demolition.

 

The most amazing of these are thirty area schools built during the 50s which are slated for demolition or land-banking in the wake of neglect and hurricane Katrina. They are slated for disposal as part of a plan to rebuild the city’s public school infrastructure. While anyone would support a plan to give kids the best possible learning environment, are we forgetting a valuable lesson we could be passing on? Let’s hope that misguided minds can see that similar facilities have been appropriated and reused for civic purposes, usually to the great benefit of the neighborhood.

Wayne Troyer, a New Orleans architect said it best:

“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.”

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