Voices from New Orleans: Design and Planning Diaspora

moderator: Lawrence J. Vale, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Gary Van Zante, MIT Museum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: John P. Klingman, Tulane School of Architecture, Tulane University
author: William Barry, Boston Preservation Alliance
author: Richard Tuttle, School of Liberal Arts, Tulane University
author: Lawrence Jenkens, College of Liberal Arts, University of New Orleans
author: Ellen Weiss, Tulane School of Architecture, Tulane University
published: Feb. 25, 2012,   recorded: October 2005,   views: 2839
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There is general agreement that to call New Orleans home means “living with danger, dangerously,” as William Barry put it. You’re “relieved when you dodge the big one, but the big one was always going to come,” says Lawrence Jenkens. So now that it has come, what next?

There’s a consensus here that much is salvageable—even in the most flooded areas of the city. Ellen Weiss worries about “the impulse to bulldoze and start from scratch with a fantasy solution,” because so many of New Orleans “shotgun neighborhoods” are underappreciated historically and architecturally. John Klingman disputes the notion that the city is “gone or fine—it’s everything in between.” Many of the older buildings are made of old growth cypress from drained swampland—an extremely resilient wood that could “endure or be reused in many ways.” But, he says, the people are in limbo, and the infrastructure and rules are broken. The question is how to “balance repopulating with good planning.” Richard Tuttle wonders if large sections of the city’s outlying wetlands should be off limits to development and “brought back as natural resources.” This would raise hackles in the petroleum industry, he notes. And while tourism is a top priority, William Barry worries that rebuilding can put “authenticity of place at risk.” John Klingman suggests sidestepping preservation issues by constructing 100 new schools, and replacing a debilitated education system with one attractive to all economic groups. Richard Tuttle would like to see “unemployed workers learn trades and be at the center of rebuilding,” but frets that Washington will cater to large and powerful financial and political interests. “This is potentially a great moment, but as someone who lives there, I’ve become cynical,” he says.

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