Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thomy Lafon Elementary School :: comments due by midnight!

, originally uploaded by .
You can still add your comments to support the preservation and adaptive reuse of the Wheatley and Lafon Schools.

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Below is my statement on Lafon.

I am continually floored that the RSD wants to demolish the Wheatley and Lafon schools which DID NOT FLOOD! Eighty percent of the city was under water - and yet these elementary schools were high and dry. In addition, in the case of Lafon the RSD has no intention of building on this site. This is a historic building which needs to be made available on the market for re-development with historic tax credits. The Lafon School is ripe for a sustainable adaptive re-use. The school was designed to address the extremities of our climate - in deference to our high heat and risk of high water.

The new housing development at CJ Peete could benefit from a facility which could function like the Colton Studio. This would foster greater creativity in this community rich with culture. And the studio artists could also offer community services by teaching after school art programs to the youth in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Regional Modernism needs YOU!

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NOW is the time for all good architects, preservationists and active citizens to come to the aid of the Wheatley and Lafon Schools threatened with imminent demolition by the so-called Recovery School District. Submit public comments in support of preservation. Deadline Wednesday 9.30.2009.
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My statement on Wheatley follows. Statement on Lafon coming soon.

I support the preservation and adaptive reuse of the Philis Wheatley Elementary School, the master work of the architect Charles R. Colbert, and one of the most important mid-century modern buildings in the state of Louisiana. I encourage the planners and architects of the Recovery School District to open their hearts and minds to consider the renovation of this historic structure. I would like to remind them that the Wheatley School has been deemed eligible to National Register of Historic Places. This means tax credits and good karma! The Wheatley School can be saved AND the Treme neighborhood can have a new school at the same time. It's not an either/or proposition. Docomomo Louisiana has presented the RSD with a proposal for how to address issues of program on this site by adding a 3-story structure (traditional scale of most neighborhood schools) connected via elevated passage to the original and renovated school building. Architects are educated to solve problems with creativity and technology. In the past fifty years, engineers have developed numerous advances is glazing technologies (impact resistant, energy efficient, any range of translucency you desire). Architects can solve any perceived negative condition and maintain the luminous spirit of the school. Give the children of the Tremé the opportunity to witness the resurrection of an abandoned building. Give them the opportunity to see the future reborn. This piece of architecture is a gem - a true diamond in the rough. Let it shine.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Save Wheatley School!

Charles Colbert's master work is threatened with imminent demolition at the hands of the Recovery School Board. Docomomo Louisiana considers Phillis Wheatley Elementary School one of the ten most important modernist buildings in the state. They have presented the RSD with a vision of how this important historic building can be renewed and adapted as part of a state-of the art school for Tremé. Now it's your turn.

Please -->submit comment --> -->s --> in support of the preservation of the Wheatley School (Charles Colbert, 1955) and Lafon Elementary School (Curtis and Davis, 1954) to the FEMA 106 site.

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Comments are due by September 30, 2009.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lafon Elementary School :: public meeting

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The FEMA 106 public meeting on Wheatley was quite interesting, at times enervating but upon reflection, a small win for the preservationists.

Those who spoke in favor of preservation offered numerous solutions, ideas, and offers for continued discussion. DOCOMOMO Louisiana presented historic drawings and and photographs of the Wheatley School. They also presented a proposal for preservation of the school by integrating it with an additional 3-story facility on the site. While the RSD claimed the program did not meet all of their requirements, they are yet to show the community any visualizations for a new building or integration with the existing building. Instead, they keep suggesting outside architects need to do more pro bono design work for them.

You can still take action Wednesday night by attending the FEMA Historic Preservation Public Meeting for the Lafon Elementary School 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm at the C.J. Peete Center 2514 Washington Avenue.

Of course, you can also submit your public comments online.

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A little backgrounder... RSD does not intend to put a school on the Lafon site. They just want to demolish this historic building to provide clear green space for a developer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wheatley Elementary School :: make your voice heard

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"The school and Lafitte, they were one. When you said Phillis Wheatley, you said Lafitte,” recalls Michelle Nelson, who went to the Wheatley school in the 60s and lived at Lafitte. He has vivid memories of an annual parade when school kids stepped to the Bell High School band and threw Mardi Gras beads to neighbors and also of directing all the young students across Saint Ann Street when he worked as a patrol guard in the sixth grade under the guidance of his favorite teacher, Mr. Grand Prix. The Lafitte housing complex that grounded this community was almost entirely demolished for redevelopment last spring and summer and now the school is slated to be razed by the New Orleans Recovery School District. “They’re just removing all memory,” laments Michelle, “They’ve taken all the places where I grew up. Now they’re tearing down the school.” *
As part of the section 106 review FEMA is sponsoring a public meeting in addition to the online public comment period. The meeting will be held at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center 2200 Lafitte Street from 6:30 - 9 pm on Tuesday, September 22, 2009.

Public comments may also be submitted online.
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* interview conducted by Bethany Rogers for the Cornerstones Project

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hoffman Elementary (sunrise 1948 - sunset 2009)

On September 17, 2009 the New Orleans City Council voted to overturn the NCDC decision to deny a demolition permit for Hoffman Elementary School, 2622 S. Prieur Street. Councilwoman Stacy Head expressed regret regarding ordering the demolition of a historic structure. Representatives of the Recovery School District verbally promised to move the Hoffman site up to phase two, and possibly phase one if they can secure the financing. It is tragic that the RSD outright refuses to renovate this structure. The building assessment in the School Facilities Master Plan indicated that it would cost $2.2 million LESS to renovate Hoffman, but they would prefer to start over.*

I read a statement on behalf of the board of Docomomo Louisiana as an "epitaph" for Hoffman. Councilwomen Head and Clarkson invited Docomomo Louisiana to meet to discuss critical modernist public structures which are endangered.

*The rebuild costs over 20% more. It's possible that if the RSD chose renovation over rebuild for five schools, we could get a sixth school renovated for free.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hoffman Elementary (threatened)

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The New Orleans City Council will determine the fate of Hoffman elementary on Thursday 9/17. Email your comments to Stacy Head.

Statement from the Board of the Louisiana chapter of docomomo*:

"The proposed demolition of Hoffman Elementary is the latest in a series of losses of significant institutional works of twentieth century architecture in New Orleans. The building is one of the few extant designed by Charles Colbert, one of Louisiana's finest mid century architects. It demonstrates a commitment to sustainable design through excellent attention to natural ventilation and daylighting in the classrooms. It was frugal in energy use, with covered outdoor circulation rather than air conditioned corridors. Colbert's commitment to progressive buildings to enhance public education was widely recognized in New Orleans and nationally. Given the large number of available school sites, demolishing this important work is unnecessary and anti-historic. If the RSD is not interested in renovating the building, a less costly alternative than new construction, it should sell the building so that this important artifact of New Orleans history is preserved."

* docomomo is the international committee for documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement

Monday, September 14, 2009

New State Office Building (1957-2009)

, originally uploaded by .
August Perez & Associates. Goldstein, Parham and Labouisse. Favrot, Reed, Mathes & Bergman.
image source: 1954-55 Annual Report of the Mayor.

take a minute to read today's t-p :: Flood damaged state office building, state Supreme Court finally demolished

"Finally" demolished? And yet the close of the article admits the building has been demolished even AFTER the plan for its replacement structure is no longer in place. It's obscene.

"However, the need for a new building evaporated when the state and Saints owner Tom Benson agreed on plans for the state to lease office space in the nearby Dominion Tower building. The state now plans to leave the sites of the former office building and Supreme Court building vacant for the foreseeable future."

Unfortunately our foreseeable future still lacks a leader with a VISION.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Preserving the Recent Past :: Lecture and Panel Discussion

Pre-cast concrete space frame system. Pre-cast units held together with post-tensioned steel cables. Simon Bolivar Ave. Central City. Albert C. Ledner, architect. from: Talk about Architecture, Lemann, Heard and Klingman


Tuesday, September 15, 2009
6:30 p.m. Cash bar
7 p.m. Lecture and panel discussion

At the PRC
923 Tchoupitoulas St.
(in the Warehouse District)


This exclusive event for PRC and Ogden members will illustrate the value and integrity of architecture from our recent past.

, born in 1920 in New Orleans, is a modern architect whose long and prolific career has earned fame and respect both locally and around the world. He studied under masters at Tulane University's School of Architecture as well as Harvard University. He has been a pioneer in the fields of modern architecture and design in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast; and although he is internationally renowned, he remains deeply rooted in the culture of his native city.

J. Richard Gruber is director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. He and Arthur Q. Davis co-wrote a book, It Happened by Design: The Life and Work of Arthur Q. Davis, published by University Press of Mississippi in April 2009.

- Jack Davis, editor, writer, and board member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
- , modernist architect and former apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright
- Wayne Troyer, award-winning architect and board member of the PRC
- Elliot Perkins, executive director of the Historic District Landmarks Commission

Presented by the PRC's Membership Education Committee, chaired by Julie Habetz.


$5 - open to members of the PRC and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

PRC memberships start at $35 per year - join onsite!
For more information, contact Suzanne at 504.636.3399 or .

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Upcoming hearings on our Modernist Schools

Last Thursday the New Orleans City Council decided to change the date of the hearing on Hoffman Elementary to Thursday September 17, 2009 at 10 am City Council Chambers.

In addition, FEMA is hosting two Historic Preservation Public Meetings for Wheatley and Lafon.

FEMA plans to post information requesting public comments on the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism’s (CRT) website on or about September 15, 2009. This posting will include information about the proposed project and the upcoming historic preservation public meeting. The comment period will extend for 15 days and will close on or about September 30, 2009. This will allow the public with the opportunity to post comments for approximately one week following the public meeting and give the Section 106 consulting parties a reasonable opportunity to review the posted comments prior to the next Section 106 consultation meeting. FEMA will forward the link to the CRT website to you once the information is posted.
The Wheatley meeting is set for Tuesday, September 22, 2009 from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center, 2200 Lafitte Street.
The Lafon meeting is set for Wednesday, September 23, 2009 from 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm at the C.J. Peete Community Center, 2514 Washington Street.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Activism Alert :: Hoffman Elementary :: Last Chance

, originally uploaded by .
Thursday September 3 at 10 am the City Council will hear four NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION DISTRICT COMMITTEE APPEALS


LONA HANKINS, DIRECTOR OF CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS, RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT Requesting to appeal the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee’s decision of

"denial" of the demolition of property located at 2622 S. Prieur Street. (Hoffman Elementary)

This is the last chance. I will do my best to speak on behalf of Docomomo Louisiana. If anyone else can attend, I think it would really help the case. Please email me (fjudd(AT) and let me know if you think you can make it. THANKS!

In addition, I also found out that the RSD has been granted a demo permit for (Ricciuti and Benson architects, 1953) which is outside the NCDC. I'm going to go photograph it today and will keep you posted.