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.

6 comments:

anthonyturducken said...

here is a pic of the tower with the grafitti

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neworleanslady/2747169217/

Francine Stock said...

thanks!
I linked New Orleans Lady's photo to "tags"

Michael Dingler said...

I was talking to someone today about this and I thought, what a shame it'd be if they let him go in there and slather paint all over the windows and building. Be very careful about monitoring this person, his tactics in the past have appeared less than honest. Ask anyone in the Vieux Carre Commission, they'll gladly tell you.

He definitely provides a fresh canvas for graffiti in this town. I'm pasting a letter I received from Graffiti Hurts about his tactics for your perusal:

QUOTE:

From Graffiti Hurts

Michael,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Operation Clean Sweep won a Graffiti Hurts award in 2004. We have not been monitoring the activities of this group since around that time.

Graffiti Hurts does not advocate any removal from private property without appropriate permission. Graffiti Hurts also encourages graffiti removal that matches paint, does not create a new canvas, and provides for changing the environment to deter further graffiti vandalism.

Regards,
Graffiti Hurts
Keep America Beautiful, Inc.
www.graffitihurts.org

:: UNQUOTE

Francine Stock said...

Excellent points, Michael. Radtke's primary method of covering graffiti with grey paint does provide the taggers/ artists / criminals with a fresh canvas for more of the same. And adds even more paint to the masonry. That said, the CB article does mention supplies for "graffiti removal solutions." And that should be clarified. New Orleans Lady sent me to this excellent resource, which I will forward to the DDD.
Preservation Brief 38: Removing Graffiti from Historic Masonry

Francine Stock said...

excerpt from the aforementioned preservation brief:

Painting over graffiti on stone is not a recommended maintenance treatment.

Water and Detergent. Graffiti removal from historic masonry should always begin with the gentlest means possible. In some instances, this means low-pressure water washing. Fresh graffiti-one or two days old-made with water-soluble markers may sometimes be removed with water, possibly aided by a neutral or non-ionic detergent. (Non-ionic detergents which do not ionize in solution, do not deposit a solid, visible residue.) Ammonia can also be effective in removing fresh graffiti. Any detergent should be approached with caution and tested before using because most commercial laundry detergents are not neutral and contain substances which may leave undesirable residues on masonry materials. Usually, the water and detergent should be mixed with an absorbent material and applied in the form of a poultice. Although water washing is often likely to be the gentlest cleaning method for historic masonry, it may not be as effective for removing graffiti because many graffiti materials are not soluble in water.

mominem said...

The building could make a great adaptive re-use project as residences.

I understand the building has a lot of asbestos in it, making any work tremendously expensive.

Saving the porcelain steel exterior panes may be difficult. I always loved the way it used the design cues of the Texaco Stations of the period.