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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Postmodern Post-disaster Vernacular

"The professional challenge, whether one is an architect in the rural American South or elsewhere in the world, is how to avoid being so stunned by the power of modern technology and economic affluence that one does not lose sight of the fact that people and place matter..." Samuel Mockbee

Last week, the Louisiana Recovery Authority released online in PDF format the Architectural Pattern Book that outlines the reconstruction of the areas devastated by last year's hurricanes. It will be given away for free at hardware stores throughout the area, and serves as a toolkit during this critical period of Louisiana architects and urban planners attempting to recover the essence of a community lost. The other option in the extreme, is a high art postmodern catastrophe. The question however, is how far should we imitate classic and traditional elements like we're building a gigantic museum? Was New Orleans ever meant to be clean?

My family got its start there about 25 years ago. To me, New Orleans will always be the smell. It's this near-rancid mixture of the Mississippi, the broken flood and sewer system, and sometimes, urine. But it is what it is. It was always a city marked by extreme yet eccentric poverty. People ask, "Why would anybody live there?" Well, you don't really have a choice, and the carefree attitude towards a badly drawn lot in life made impending disaster a part of the culture.

Last year I was sitting in an Alabama oyster bar with my old roommate whose east New Orleans apartment was underwater. We knew that the smell, and the New Orleans we knew, was washed away like a bad song. Contractors were buying up land for cheap. The only people left were the rich folks on dry land. Gentrification was on its way.

A toast was made. "Here's to Disney New Orleans."

props to Veritas et Venustas

1 comment:

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