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