Monday, April 19, 2010

The Child is the Monument

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Thirty thousand people attended an exhibit of revolutionary school construction designed by students of Prof. Charles Colbert, Tulane. Colbert above left, and Edwin Eley, assistant head of Orleans Parish Public Schools, check the exhibit.

In the 1950s thirty new public schools were constructed in New Orleans. The drive to modernize school facilities was spearheaded by Charles R. Colbert (1921-2007). In 1948 this young assistant professor at Tulane coordinated a 2nd year studio focused on designing modern schools suitable to our climate and sensitive to the needs of children. The subsequent public exhibition of this student work was viewed by 30,000 New Orleanians. “They went away all steamed up over such items as modern, soft-finish, non-glare desk tops; light-absorbing, easy on-the-eyes green chalk boards instead of old-fashioned blackboards; glass wall blocks which filter light and produce a soothing indirect illumination in the classroom; windows on two sides; ‘orientation’ toward prevailing breezes-----and all this at a smaller cost per foot than is usual for conventional school buildings.”

Colbert served for two years as Supervising Architect for Planning and Construction for the Orleans Parish School Board. In 1952 he produced A Continuous Planning and Building Program, a comprehensive study of existing facilities and plans for growth and development. The following spring Colbert resigned from this position as planner to focus on his architectural practice. And to practice what he preached.

‘The Child Is The Monument’ by Helena Huntington Smith, Colliers, September 3, 1949

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