Saturday, November 28, 2009

Old News :: Good News

Last month members of the board of Docomomo Louisiana presented a slideshow to the City Council Special Housing Committee at the request of Council Member Stacy Head. We were joined by Eliot Perkins, Executive Director of the Historic District Landmarks Commission. Head had requested this meeting to learn more about our mission and challenges. Ms. Head noted that seeing images of the buildings in better days helped her recognize their significance. She recommended we take our slide show on the road and present to neighborhood groups.

Update on
Whitney Bank :: The City Council voted to uphold the HDLC designation as a historic landmark.

Update on Wheatley School :: The World Monuments Fund Watch listing has brought significant attention. Its possible we may have found the right fit for adaptive reuse. John Klingman was interviewed by
Dave Egbert at Living Green Radio about sustainable reuse of Wheatley and other modernist structures. Listen here.

AIA Louisiana honors
Albert Ledner with the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Whitney National Bank (threatened)

Whitney National  Bank
Whitney National Bank, Parham and Labouisse*, architects, 1964, originally uploaded by regional.modernism.
The Whitney National Bank building on Canal and Broad is threatened with imminent demolition. There is a temporary stop work order in effect and a hearing before the City Council on Thursday 11/5/09, scheduled to start at 11 am.

The new tenant?

Family Freaking Dollar.

* note: architects Parham and Labouisse previously partnered with Moise Goldstein. Monroe F. Labouisse also designed the Petrolane Building on Jeff Highway.

Thomy Lafon Elementary School

Looking a bit more closely at the plan of the Thomy Lafon School today. Preparing a lecture on case studies and will discuss Lafon in relation to Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye.

The form of the school has been obscured / marred by the unsympathetic addition of those horrible corrugated red hoods. But the plan better illustrates how this school functioned without corridors. The kindergarten wing was accessible by a playful ramp to the upper story. Beyond the kindergarten, classrooms were paired to share a staircase and toilet facilities. Architect Nathaniel C. Curtis described the plan as "the next logical step after the finger plan."* His partner architect Arthur Q. Davis describes the form as "a long, thin classroom wing, gracefully bent to avoid monotony."**

Here the pilotis serve many functions. The elevation of the classroom wing amplifies available play space which also offers shelter from rain and needed shade.This would also keep the classrooms cooler as there is a greater breeze at higher elevation. This is of course an old French Colonial tradition. Finally, the pilotis saved the classrooms from flooding post-Katrina. The Survivors Council fought to re-open the school in 2007, but to no avail. It has remained shuttered. The RSD has no plans for the reuse of the building. However, it could be adapted to serve the Harmony Oaks community as an early childhood center.

* In 1952 the first modern school was built in New Orleans, designed by Curtis and Davis. It was originally known as McDonogh 39 (later renamed Avery Alexander School) and followed a finger school plan with a series courtyards between the wings. School Facilities Plan called for its demolition. It was on the Louisiana Landmark's New Orleans Nine Most Endangered list in 2009, along with Lafon, Wheatley and Carver. Quote is from Talk About Architecture, Heard, Lemann and Klingman, 1993

** It Happened by Design, Arthur Q. Davis, 2009