Thursday, February 28, 2008

First Modern School III

In 1999 McDonogh 39 was renamed Avery Alexander to honor the civil rights leader. The school received about 5 feet of flood water and is (mostly) boarded up. The SFMPOP recommends “complete replacement.”

_T\ S G O NG T O B

more photos on , including sections. Many thanks to Irene Wainright, archivist, New Orleans Public Library.

First Modern School II

McDonogh 39 is a “finger school” in plan. The broad administrative wing faces St. Roch Avenue and four classrooms project from one end. They are oriented in deference to our summer weather that extends well into the academic year. The classrooms predominantly receive north light. The southern exposure of the classrooms are protected by the deep overhang of the external open corridor. The walls of the classrooms and corridors are mostly filled with louvered glass and aluminum windows, providing ample natural light and ventilation. Each classroom wing fronts an "outdoor classroom," a paved courtyard that also provides additional play space.

view inside corridor

First Modern School I

I "discovered" this school through the wonders of Google. I was searching for information on Charles Colbert, architect of the Wheatley School and found this article from 1953 in the Time magazine archive. The article talks about Mr. Colbert's involvement in this revolutionary push to modernize the school facilities in New Orleans. The article referenced McDonogh 39 as our first modern school and I knew I had to check it out. When I went to photograph the building, I was struck by the relative silence of the neighborhood. The wide open space of the Gentilly campus and horizontality of the school building reminded me more of my roots in the Illinois prairie than of New Orleans. However, on closer inspection, I realized that this modern building had a true regional sensibility.

Regional Modernism Map

Photography assignments have been distributed. We will have our first photography review in class on Tuesday, March 11, 2008. Student photographers will also be uploading images to and linking them into the Regional Modernism Map. Specific photo assignments are color coded by pins or balloons on the map.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

where will all the buildings go?

What landfill is going to accommodate all this rubble?

Lafitte, CJ Peete, BW Cooper and St. Bernard Housing Projects
47 Public School Buildings
1000s of houses on demolition lists
State Office Building and State Supreme Court Building

We need to demand greater accountability from Concordia and CSRS (planners for the RSD) to promote renovation and adaptive reuse.

"The greenest building is the one already built." (American Institute of Architects)

"Why is the greenest building one already built?" (Preservation Resource Center)

"It takes energy to construct a new building. It saves energy to preserve an old one." (The National Trust)

mid-century modern at risk

City Business reports "RSD plans 47 school demolitions."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Does major renovation = selective demolition?

The RSD review for the majority of the mid-century modern schools is "complete replacement." While they have not yet equated "complete replacement" with "demolition," we can assume these buildings are threatened. I initially thought that Mahalia Jackson Elementary might be the only mid-century public school to survive the initial RSD review. Then I found this.

While the RSD review said "major renovation" this document suggests they are planning a "demolition." This is the main page for information about the so-called "selective demolition" of Mahalia Jackson Elementary.
Can the RSD please define "selective demolition?" And how about the difference between "complete replacement" and "demolition?"

Friday, February 22, 2008

vision::aerie architecture

The Phillis Wheatley Elementary School is in danger of demolition by the School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish. The elevated school was designed by the architect Charles R. Colbert (1921-2007) in 1954. The cantilevered steel truss structure is solid and clearly did not flood after Hurricane Katrina. The building suffers only from neglect. It is one of the most innovative monuments of mid-century Modern architecture in New Orleans. The design was recognized by Progressive Architecture in 1955. Mr. Colbert received the Louisiana AIA Medal of Honor in 2006.

Phyllis Wheatley School, 2300 Dumaine Street, photo: Frank Lotz Miller

et tu, Mahalia Jackson?

I've done so so much research on mid-century modern public schools in New Orleans in the past week, that I'm not exactly sure where I downloaded this image. But apparently, even Mahalia Jackson Elementary is slated for a "selective" demolition.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Updated Schools Map

The color coding and data for the 1950s schools map have been updated.
Red = demolished or slated for demolition.
Yellow = received a preliminary assessment of "complete replacement" by the School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish.
Green = OK. Only one of these buildings (Mahalia Jackson Elementary, 2101 Freret) is part of the public school system. The others are private. Of note, Brother Martin High School in Gentilly managed to renovate and re-open by February 2006.
Public hearings will be held at various school sites.
All of these schools were all recognized in Samuel Wilson's Guide to New Orleans Architecture.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Orleans School Demolitions and Construction

See the full article in (12/17/2007).

RSD okays demolition of 7 Orleans schools (1/17/08)

The schools set to be demolished include:

Abrams Elementary
Abramson High School
Mary D. Coghill Elementary
Ernest N. Morial Elementary
Helen S. Edwards Elementary
Joseph Hardin Elementary
Alfred Lawless High School

Meanwhile, the RSD is in the process of demolishing storm-damaged
portable buildings on 20 campuses. A total of 77 portable buildings
will be demolished at the following sites:
Abrams Elementary;
Bienville Elementary, 1456 Gardena Drive;
Bradley Elementary, 2401 Humanity Street;
Carver Middle and High, 3059 Higgins Boulevard;
Chester Elementary, 3929 Erato Street; J
Jean Gordon Elementary, 6101 Chatham Drive;
Gregory Middle, 1700 Pratt Drive;
Hardin Elementary, 2401 Maurice Avenue;
Jones Elementary, 1901 N. Galvez Street;
Jordan Elementary, 4348 Reynes Street;
Kennedy High, 5700 Wisner Boulevard.;
Lawless High, 5300 Law Street.;
Little Woods Elementary, 10200 Curran Boulevard.;
Morial Elementary, 7701 Grant Street;
Osborne Elementary, 6701 Curran Boulevard;
Parkview Elementary, 4617 Mirabeau Avenue;
Shaw Elementary, 2518 Arts Street;
Sherwood Forest Elementary, 4801 Maid Marion Drive;
Waters Elementary, 3800 Cadillac Street; and
Wheatley Elementary, 2300 Dumaine Street.

Special thanks to Keli Rylance, Head of the Tulane Southeastern Architectural Archive.

New Orleans Schools 1950-1959

Click on the map at left to view a Google map of New Orleans Schools 1950-1959.

In the 1950s the Orleans Parish School Board built 24 modern schools. The effort was spearheaded by Mrs. Jaqueline Leonhard and Charles Colbert, an architect and Tulane faculty member. Their story was chronicled in Time magazine in 1952. Many of these buildings are excellent examples of Regional Modernism at its finest. In the next few posts I will highlight some of the schools.

The Fire symbols indicate schools already demolished. The red warning symbols indicate demolition permits. Demolition list provided through comments section of Times-Picayune article 12/19/07. Requires verification from Safety and Permits.

The flag represents the 1st modern school in New Orleans.
source: A Guide to New Orleans Architecture 1699-1959 by Samuel Wilson, Jr., F.A.I.A.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


DOCOMOMO, the DOcumentation and COnservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement, promotes the study, interpretation and protection of the architecture, landscape and urban design of the Modern Movement.

DOCOMOMO_NOLA is the local chapter of the United States working party. If you are interested in joining the organization at national and international level, you can do so at

In accordance with DOCOMOMO-US, the New Orleans chapter advocates the exploration, documentation, conservation, education and sustained use of the City of New Orleans, State of Louisiana and the Gulf South region's manifestations of the Modern movement.

To become part of the newly-formed New Orleans chapter, please contact Toni DiMaggio at to be added to the mailing list and receive information on upcoming meeting and events. The local meetings are held once a month, the next being Tuesday, February 12th.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

RegionalModernismNOLA map

This map is a collaborative project-in-process of the class, Regional Modernism: the New Orleans Archives, Tulane University School of Architecture. Our Google map of Regional Modernism in New Orleans was created with the help of MapBuilder and GPS Visualizer.

Our primary sources are the New Orleans Public Library Index to Building Plans online and the Southeastern Architectural Archive finding aids. We would be lost without Sam Wilson's A Guide to New Orleans Architecture 1699-1959. The buildings listed date from the period 1925-1975. We have not made evaluations for historic significance. Our very wide net certainly captures a few dogs here and there, but we hope it will also reveal some treasures. At this point, we have nearly 850 sites and will turn our energies to photo-documentation and the collection of oral histories.