Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Orleans Architectural History Survey

The Flickr group has been active for about six months. The group "is a reNewed survey of historic New Orleans 19th century vernacular architecture, with the 1979 HDLC survey serving as an outline for types and styles of historic architecture. This survey, completed nearly 30 years ago, was done for the city, providing recommendations for the city to establish national and city landmarks, and historic architectural districts."

The group photo pool grows daily. As I write it contains nearly 2500 images. Jeff Lamb, the founder of NOAHs and author of the 1979 HDLC survey, highlights recent additions in his wordpress. Recently a couple of our Modernist monuments have been invited to join the group. And I'm so thankful. Modernist architecture is a real underdog in a city which is so strongly identified with its 19th century architecture. In the spirit of inclusion and collaboration, I created this map in Mapufacture which shows the most recent geo-tagged photos through the group feed. The next step is to figure out how to extend the length of the feed so more images are included and to encourage more flickr users to geo-tag. But it's a start.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Motel de Ville (DEMOLISHED)

photo by Frank Lotz Miller, from
This motor-hotel by Charles Colbert was quite in its day. It was on Tulane Avenue and S. Cortez. It's hard to imagine that this would be a desirable location for a motel today. But when it was built in 1953, Tulane Avenue / Airline Highway was THE major corridor until the Ponchartrain Expressway was completed in 1958. Not sure when the Motel de Ville was demolished, but the when I looked for it last December.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

DOCOMOMO New Orleans

is the local chapter of the international working party for documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement.

Design Within Reach is hosting an event to celebrate the group committed to defending our threatened modern masterpieces. We're looking for members to move our mission forward.

Thursday, June 26, 6-9 pm

DWR New Orleans Studio

3138 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
Phone: 504. 891. 6520

Supreme Court Building, Civic Center
from the Annual Report of the Mayor of New Orleans: 1955-1956
New Orleans Virtual Archive, Tulane School of Architecture

Phillis Wheatley Elementary School (THREATENED)
photo: Frank Lotz Miller
Courtesy the Estate of Charles Colbert

Civic Center, Civil Courts Building (THREATENED)
from the Annual Report of the Mayor of New Orleans: 1955-1956
New Orleans Virtual Archive, Tulane School of Architecture

The Rivergate
photo: Frank Lotz Miller
Tulane Libraries, Special Collections, Southeastern Architectural Archive

St. Frances Cabrini Church
photo: Frank Lotz Miller
Tulane Libraries, Special Collections, Southeastern Architectural Archive

graphics: Brad Brooks and Ginette Bone

Sunday, June 15, 2008

4940 St Roch (Lustron House)

, originally uploaded by .

Thanks to Randall for bringing 4940 St. Roch to our attention. FEMA 106 comments

This is a Lustron House - one of just a handful in New Orleans.

"The Lustron House was an innovative solution to the post-WWII housing crisis. Many thought the porcelain enamel clad wonder would be the General Motors of the housing industry. Production began in 1948, but by 1950 production problems and a corruption scandal brought it to a halt. The factory was closed and the equipment sold or scrapped. All in all, only about 2,680 of these unique homes were built. Sadly, it is estimated that only 1,500 of these unique homes survive today. Each year, dozens more are lost to demolition, neglect, and unsympathetic changes and alterations." - Lustron Preservation

Apparently the owner of this Lustron house at 4940 St. Roch Avenue in Gentilly Terrace has applied for voluntary demolition. It's very difficult to fight for preservation of a structure that the owner wants to demolish. However, as this pre-fab house arrived on a truck, it could be dis-assembled rather than demolished. Perhaps the owner might be persuaded to allow someone to move the structure to another site?

Lustron Homes were designed by Carl Strandlund, a native of Sweden. These factory built homes are not native to Louisiana and our vernacular architecture. However, they are relatively rare and certainly worthy of preservation. An added caveat: the enamel-clad steel Lustron Homes are known to withstand high winds better than stick-build structures (and they provide the perfect environment for a collection of post-K IKEA furniture).

Another local Lustron in Hollygrove has been renovated and is currently on the market.

Speaking of real estate, we have a new crib:::::::::::::: has become

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


The NetSquared experience was more than a bit intense: two extended days of discussions with the progressive and powerful. We were one of 21 projects recognized for our efforts to use the internet for social change. We came home to our swampy fertile crescent with a bit of seed money to get our project going. It's a small seed, but it's an official start. So, thank you NetSquared. I've been asked to define this project in terms of its benefits. How does the development of this mapping application directly create positive change? How will people use it? How will the benefits be realized?

Our project will create a visualization tool that can be used to document the historic significance of neighborhoods.
Yesterday I spoke with Liliana at the Partnership for Transformation of Urban Communities about how we can help map their photo census of Pontilly. Pontilly is the neighborhood organization for Ponchartrain Park and Gentilly Woods. These are early and mid-20th century neighborhoods that have joined forces to lobby for historic district status. Our photo-mapping presentation tool can help them achieve that goal. They are so close. They have already created the photo census of the neighborhood and uploaded the photos to a server. Their data is in a spreadsheet. The photos and data just need to be integrated into a dynamic map to help tell their story.

Open data. Open source. Open access.
We will make it clear to participants upfront that they are contributing to the creation of a virtual public library. Any data sets integrated into our maps will be licensed though Creative Commons. Our maps will provide information about the sources for the data, recognizing the work of the people, organizations and archives who are creating and providing the data and photos. The data sets themselves will be exportable as KML for re-mashing. We have so much more to gain by sharing this information, than by keeping it proprietary.

Our project will create a library of historic base maps and data sets. This is a dream come true. Every architect I know (and I know more than my share) would love to have the ability to review different historic site maps online and then be able to actually USE those maps to present their work. Not only will architects use this feature, but so will the academy, the non-profits, the government, city planners, the schoolchildren, the tourists.

We are creating a site-specific presentation tool for telling stories. The Neighborhood Story Project's mission is "Our stories told by us." In a collaboration with Tulane City Center, they produced Cornerstones, celebrating the everyday monuments of New Orleans culture and neighborhoods. They are accepting nominations to expand their registry of everyday monuments, sites which other people just don't see. It's such a beautiful project. We have partnered with the Tulane City Center to help integrate their photos, oral histories, video and building plans into a dynamic map.

I don't think I would be so engaged in this mapping project, were it not so incredibly loaded with potential. Our crescent city is such fertile ground for mapping and data collection and photo documentation. We need to strike while it's hot.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The New Orleans Nine

Today the Louisiana Landmarks Society released their list of the New Orleans Nine most endangered properties for 2008. Mid-century modern public schools made the list. Read the complete nomination document here.

I submitted this nomination on behalf of DOCOMOMO - New Orleans dedicated to the documentation and conservation of the sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement.

Save the date: Thursday June 26 Design Within Reach will host an inaugural reception for DOCO/NOLA at 3138 Magazine Street. Details to follow.