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:

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.