Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Plea For Modernism

A Plea For Modernism from Evan Mather

A Plea For Modernism from Evan Mather on Vimeo.

The Phillis Wheatley Elementary School has served the historic New Orleans African-American neighborhood of Trem̩ since it opened in 1955. Celebrated worldwide for its innovative, regionally-expressive modern design Рthe structure sustained moderate damage during the storms and levee breach of 2005. DOCOMOMO Louisiana is advocating for its restoration via adaptive reuse.

A Plea For Modernism [Evan Mather, Hand Crafted Films, 2011] includes interviews with professor John Klingman of the Tulane School of Architecture, architect Wayne Troyer, John Stubbs, vice-president for field projects for the World Monuments Fund and author/actress Phyllis Montana-Leblanc, a former student of Phillis Wheatley. It was written by Francine Stock and Evan Mather and narrated by actor Wendell Pierce (HBO's The Wire, Treme). The film includes historical photos courtesy of the Tulane Libraries Southeastern Architectural Archive and Tulane School of Architecture's New Orleans Virtual Archive, as well as Charles Colbert's presentation boards courtesy of the Orleans Parish School Board Archive, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans. Contemporary photography is by Emily Ardoin, Winifried Brenne, John Defraites, Anthony DelRosario, Karen Gadbois, Karran Harper Royal, Meg Holford, Michael Kievets / Sybolt Voeten, Sergio Padilla, Francine Stock and John Stubbs. Animations and graphics are by Evan Mather and Wayne Troyer. The original music score is by Jusso Auvinen.

If no action is taken the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School will demolished in Summer 2011. Please take time to sign the petition to save Phillis Wheatley and contact our public officials.

Mayor Mitchell Landrieu, City of New Orleans
Superintendent John White, Recovery School District
Superintendent Darryl Kilbert, Orleans Parish School Board

In taking these steps, we affirm the significance and diversity of our architectural and cultural heritage and our desire to rescue the future from the past.

Francine Stock

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Orleans Regional Modernism is available on the App Store!

DOCOMOMO Louisiana and Tulane University are pleased to present:

 Get the NolaModern App on iTunes!
The New Orleans Regional Modernism app is designed to highlight the  significant, threatened and lost modern architecture of New Orleans. It  is a project of Tulane University and DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana, a regional  chapter of an international committee dedicated to the documentation and  conservation of the buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern  movement.

This location-based app allows you to browse modern buildings  in New Orleans by architect, neighborhood, category or status (extant,  threatened or razed). Three tour routes have been identified:  St.  Charles Avenue Streetcar, Canal Streetcar, and the 2011 Modernism in New  Orleans tour led by Francine Stock and Keli Rylance for the Society of  Architectural Historians.

We are grateful to Tulane Libraries' Southeastern Architectural  Archive, the Tulane School of Architecture's New Orleans Virtual  Archive, the New Orleans Public Library's City Archives, and to many  students and friends for providing photos. Descriptions of buildings  were written by DOCOMOMO members, students in Francine Stock's Regional  Modernism class at Tulane School of Architecture, and Karen Kingsley,  author of Modernism in Louisiana.

This software was designed and is  supported by the Innovative Learning Center, a division of Tulane Technology Services.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Compatible with iPhones and iPads running iOS 4.3+.  Requires network connectivity. Please note our first update (coming  soon!) will include functionality at iOS 4.2 level to extend the app to  iPhone 3 and iPod Touch 2.

To contact the local chapter about this app or to submit a building for inclusion, email:

Please join DOCOMOMO in supporting the preservation of modern architecture.

Francine Stock
Visual Resources Curator, Tulane School of Architecture
President, DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana

 DOCOMOMO NOLA on Blogspot      

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

National Trust :: Modernist Masterpiece at Grave Risk in New Orleans

But even after the functional death sentence, it’s clear that Wheatley, named for a colonial-era African American poet, is not dead yet.

[Brad Vogel, National Trust for Historic Preservation]


Friday, May 6, 2011

A numeric overview :: recent losses from the recent past

I started Regional Modernism: the New Orleans Archives 3 years ago to document the process of documenting modernism in New Orleans. I had just lost my 1st building, a moderne structure on Canal and Treme. I'd only photographed it weeks before and was shocked to see it reduced to rubble before I had a chance to get to know it. A mission made in a moment.

The Regional Modernism course at Tulane School of Architecture in the spring of 2008 was less about teaching and more about discovering and documenting. The students and I started by merging data from the Southeastern Architectural Archives, the New Orleans Public Library's City Archives and Samuel Wilson's Guide to New Orleans Architecture into a map of nearly 850 modern buildings in New Orleans, of which are chronicled in the Regional Modernism flickr account. Soon (very soon) the Regional Modernism iphone app will be released. It includes nearly 150 modern buildings, lost, extant and threatened.

Through this process, I've learned not just about identifying modernism in our midst, but also about its significance and relationship to the history of our built environment. In 1955 Progressive Architecture's 2nd Annual Design Awards recognized more buildings by architects from New Orleans and Louisiana than any other city or state in the nation. That's right. Before New Orleans was the city that care forgot, it was one of the most architecturally progressive cities in the nation.

Yet we are losing significant modern architecture at a truly alarming rate. In the mid 20th century 6 New Orleans buildings received national AIA Awards. Soon two thirds of these will be gone. 

Since 2008 the mid 20th century modern public school has become an endangered species in New Orleans. Of the city's 30 public schools designed and built in the 1950s, today only 3 are left standing. Soon only 1 may remain. At the Hands Around Wheatley gathering in April, John Stubbs offered this sobering statistic:
Since the World Monuments Watch List program was established in 1995, we’ve listed nearly 600 sites in ninety-one countries. In Moscow, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and Havana others have found ways to preserve threatened modern buildings, surely we can do the same with Wheatley School. If the Wheatley school is lost through demolition, it will be the 1st site on our World Monuments Watch List that died in our hands.
This week the Louisiana Landmarks Society announced its New Orleans 9 Most Endangered List for 2011.  The current list recognizes Abandoned and Neglected Public School Buildings City-Wide including the "Phillis Wheatley School in Treme, once internationally known for its cutting-edge mid-20th century design." The 2008 list included Mid-century Modern Public Schools. Of the 4 schools cited in 2008, McDonogh 39 and Carver have been razed and demolitions are pending for Wheatley and Lafon.

Next week we welcome the 2011 American Institute of Architects annual meeting to New Orleans.  DOCOMOMO Louisiana will present an exhibit on mid-century modern schools at the Preservation Resource Center. On view will be reproductions of architect Charles Colbert's 9 presentation boards of drawings of the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School. The exhibit will also feature contemporary photography of the Phillis Wheatley, Thomy Lafon and George Washington Carver Schools by Emily Ardoin, John Klingman, Anthony DelRosario and Francine Stock. Phyllis Montana-Leblanc's petition to SAVE PHILLIS WHEATLEY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN NEW ORLEANS! SAY "NO!" TO DEMOLITION now has 1555  signatures. Add yours today. 

You can also email your comments directly to to Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu:

It's not too late to raise your voice in support for the preservation of this significant and truly unique school building.

Francine Stock

[photo: John Stubbs, World Monuments Fund]