Notes from New Orleans: Panel on At-Risk 20th Century Urban Design and Architecture

Posted on: February 18th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

A panel discussion called “At Risk: 20th Century Urban Design and Architecture” drew at least 150 people to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art this past week. Panel moderator was New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussof. Also participating were Ferrell Guillory, director of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina and a former New Orleans States-Item reporter; Sally Hernandez-Pinero, former chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority; New Orleans architects Arthur Q. Davis and Ray Manning; and Jack Davis of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The discussion ranged from the threats to Charity Hospital and city school buildings to the loss of St. Frances Cabrini Church, but finally settled primarily on a discussion of the public housing developments. One of the audience members, Rev. Marshall Truehill, put it so eloquently this way: “We need to keep in mind that the buildings have become symbols of what has been distasteful, and rather than deal with the source of the distaste, we’d rather tear down the building.” Jack Davis noted that the city’s penchant for demolition was rooted in the mayor’s need to show progress—of any kind—in an administration short of notable accomplishments. Meanwhile demolition is proceeding on the newer non-historic sections of the B.W. Cooper housing development, and at the C.J. Peete housing development. We’re not sure what’s going on with Lafitte and St. Bernard, so I wrote a letter to the president of the City Council this past Friday asking for information.

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