Sunday, September 18, 2005
Community, Character, and the New Urban Response to Katrina
Community, Character, and the Response to Katrina
September 17, 2005
As the efforts in New Orleans and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina turn from rescuing to rebuilding, New Urbanists have been working on ways to support local and regional reconstruction efforts. The goal is to create rebuilding efforts that address immediate needs for infrastructure repair, environmental solutions, and temporary housing and relief, while also meeting the long-term need for neighborhoods of lasting value and character that serve diverse populations.
CNU members have also shared their views in media coverage of how best to proceed with the rebuilding effort. In an article titled, “Nation's leading professionals offer aid in Gulf Coast rebuilding,” Kevin Fee and Andres Viglucci of Knight Ridder newspapers reported that CNU co-founder Andres Duany had met with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to discuss rebuilding efforts in Biloxi, Gulfport, and Pascagoula.
Wrote Fee and Viglucci in the article,
“The challenge of rebuilding Mississippi's Gulf Coast is attracting some of the nation's leading professionals in architectural planning, engineering and management, who have offered to help at reduced or no cost, state officials say.
The hope is to recruit "as many as 50 national and international firms and pair up their planners and designers with local officials on projects of varying scale - from broad redevelopment plans or new zoning codes for stricken municipalities to streamlining the permitting of new buildings.”
"In Mississippi it's about getting it done right, having it better than it was before. This is a tremendous opportunity to do that," Duany elaborated. "We want to create areas that are more diverse, less auto dependent, more environmentally friendly and more secure from hurricanes."
“‘Whatever is going to be done is going to have to be done with the total input of the local professionals and elected public officials,’ Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority told reporters about the effort.
On September 15, Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, first reported that Duany had met with Barbour. “’The New Urbanists want to protect the traditional character of the Mississippi towns and ‘try to make sure [what] they build … has lasting value,’” CNU President John Norquist told Kamin.
In an expanded column the same day titled “Why New Orleans Must Be Rebuilt,” Kamin suggested a role for New Urbanists, “The traditional town planners known as the New Urbanists … could lend their skills to a pro bono effort that would determine how the city's neighborhoods could be quickly rebuilt with a thread of continuity that would weave the best of New Orleans' architectural past into its future.” View Kamin’s full column in the Chicago Tribune.
Earlier in September, John King, San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic, also weighed in on rebuilding efforts, “People around the world have sumptuous memories of the French Quarter or are beguiled by such neighborhoods as the Garden District, both of which sustained relatively minor damage. Louisiana and the national government have a stake in showing that they're capable of restoring one of America's best- loved cities --preferably with at least some signs of progress by the next Mardi Gras in February.”
“‘You're going to see lot of people in a hurry ... If they build and build, or turn over big chunks of land to suburban (style) developers, the result will be a mess,’” Norquist told the Chronicle. “‘They should just affirm the street patterns and property lines that already exist. The city needs to learn from its image, which is very strong … It's not just the jazz, it's the life. Sophisticated pleasure -- they need to stick with that. That's why the world loves them.’”
In online discussions, CNU members have offered ideas and approaches to rebuilding. As CNU Board member, Stefanos Polyzoides has noted, “Neighborhoods should be the seed of all physical reconstruction. They are the best means of building in a manner that allows families to depend on each other during trying times. Neighborhoods are the best place to incrementally heal a broken society.” View excerpts from on-line discussions on Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts.
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Some are arguing that we need to get rid of any regulations or goals for redevelopment and just let "the market" and land speculators do what they would. My response: why build Atlanta or Houston or Phoenix here, wouldn't it be cheaper just to do lowest common denominator suburbia in a more secure location.
Posted by: Brian Miller at Sep 19, 2005 1:17:03 PM
gee, another one of andre's communities? what one is he going to copy this time? it's real hard to "town plan" when the towns he design have already been designed, by our forfathers in the 1900's. a main street, a transect and he's a glorified planner? i'd rather say a socialistic (if not whole hearted communist) belligerent developer. give me a break. america has never stood for degression, and when population growth hits those towns, those little "alternative roads" are going to have taxpayers in quite a huff. or better yet, lets restrict absolutely everything about a community, so people have no ownership of their land whatsoever. i thought america stood for freedom and individual property rights, not social oppression. andres was probably ticked pink when the supreme court ruled in favor of the new emminent domain radicalism. communism can stay in cuba along with andres.
Posted by: kellen at Sep 20, 2005 1:19:51 AM
Gee, Kellen, that's a lot of anger. What on earth in the post caused it?
The New Urbanists were hired by Governor Haley Barbour. Barbour was the Chair of the Republican National Committee when the Republicans took over Congress and the Governorships, the Chair of Governor Bush's Presidential Campaign, and a top official in the Reagan White House. He doesn't sound like a communist to me.
As far as i can tell from your post, you're a Randian Libertarian architect. It might interest you to know that New Urbanist Leon Krier calls himself a Randian. Your red baiting is way off base.
Posted by: john massengale at Sep 20, 2005 8:55:55 AM
John, I've been wondering how the New Urbanists can put their stuff together with flood regulations, specifically flood elevation requirements.
Putting houses up on stilts works for keeping them out of flood waters, a worthy and necessary goal. However, where I live on the west coast of Florida, I've yet to see any house or commercial building rise above the flood waters and yet still remain attached to the ground in a meaningful new urban way.
How does an architect accomplish this? Those buildings need to be about 18' up in the air, which is a lot of steps.
Posted by: pedro at Sep 20, 2005 9:47:51 AM
I agree with kelly. We need BIGGER ROADS. No limitations on what we can do with OUR CASTLES. More bombastic, gigantic architecture that shows how much of an UBERMAN we are. Imagine if you can a series of gigantic concrete phallo-skyscrapers, marching to the horizon. Perhaps beaming laser beams out of their tops to incinerate Andre and his good buddies Fidel and Hugo? I feel the urge to write a horrible, ponderous 700 page novel describing in excrutiating detail my glorious plans. :)
Posted by: Brian Miller at Sep 20, 2005 11:25:40 AM
New Orleans needs radical thinking. Before we pour hundreds of billions into higher and higher levees and thousands of homes of stilts, let's start from zero and let the river reclaim all the low-lying areas. In fact, let's go the whole hog: let the Mississippi find its natural route...that is, away from New Orleans. Perhaps many miles from the crescent city. There would still be a "river" flowing past the city...just not THE river. This will take un-damning the river and letting big floods (like the one in 1927) to once again do their thing to build up the sinking landscape. Over time, it's the only way to save the city. Once the river has sorted itself out, we can really then truly "plan" what New Orleans should look like. My guess is, a much smaller city without many of the polluting industries (or jobs) that have built, shaped and scarred its landscape for so long. It wouldn't be like Venice or Bruges or Disneyland. It would still be New Orleans, but perhaps not the New Orleans we know today. There would still be a French Quarter, but it wouldn't border a huge population with an undereducated, underserved (and potentially underwater) underclass either.
Posted by: Troy Torrison at Sep 20, 2005 2:18:22 PM
I'm a part of the Mississippi charrette next month, but I'm not part of organizing it, so I haven't thought about the details. It's important to come to a charrette with an open mind, and to listen to what people say.
In other words, I'm trying not to make decisions at this point about solutions.
Posted by: john massengale at Sep 20, 2005 4:55:47 PM
my red baiting is not way off base by any means. according to basic political philosophy, new urbanism and what new urbanist towns entail is restriction and regulation promoting a dream of "utopia" as been phrased before by new urbanists and other colorful characters of history. as for balfour (whom i wasn't calling a communist, that would be andres, but i only suggested it) you have a point, however who is he going to hire besides the new urbanists jumping down his throat, and that is exactly the point. there is no other town planning, and the schools that do promote new urbanism do not field ANY investigation into other realms of planning. the new urbanism schools are factories to hire young weak minds who believe in one thing only (what they are told) and are not open to other ways of thinking because they do not know how. and while new urbanism does appeal to the masses, the masses also let their votes be determined by fox news and cnn. however, there also are no other "modern" schools seriously undertaking the task of planning; it seems all the "elite" modern schools push the "introverted retreatest" attitude (except princeton and the AA). this attitude is especially displayed by a pathetically sad dialogue between wigley and eisenman. the fact of the matter is that new urbanism does not promote progress, but more importantly, it does not promote addressing the real issues of society which architecture needs to. i've been on a charrette or two in my day, and it's an 11 day propoganda fest. my point is that new urbanists are a single thinking entity led by a radical who does not even allow himself open for debate because he refuses to listen, exactly how eisenman conducts himself. and these are the leaders of architecture today?
angry, yes i am. i am shameful of the way architecture has become so stagnantly diluted. and when we have such a wonderful disciplinary past to look back on, we are disgraced by today's architecture (on all fronts), and the extreme self promotion within our own circles, when in truth, architects are just a mere subset of the body that actually contributes and governs the country and globe. our world is run by economics, hands down, it is a world foreign to architects who take no part in it. yet architects and their schools still preach the self indulgent idea of how elite architects are. it is a joke, and architecture right now is a joke. art and architecture was for all of time such a dominating force of society; what is art and architecture now compared to 400 years ago? i'd like to know.
(sorry for getting so macro, just the natural flow of thought, but congrats for new urbanism, b/c they are developing a rough monopoly on the planning market, but there will be an alternative someday)
Posted by: kellen at Sep 20, 2005 8:17:29 PM
That's a pretty wild set of fantasies you have worked up, kellen. New urbanist neighborhoods are less than two percent of all new development in the U.S. I'm not sure how that translates into a "rough monopoly."
It's kinda interesting you think Princeton is one of the only schools that doesn't have an introverted retreatest attitude, whatever that is. The dean of Princeton's architecture school says about Duany and Plater-Zyberk: "The real strength of what they've done is to create an alternative to traditional suburban development. Every student who's studying architecture today needs to know about New Urbanism."
Posted by: Laurence Aurbach at Sep 23, 2005 4:12:43 PM
John, you wrote:
Norquist told the Chronicle. “‘They should just affirm the street patterns and property lines that already exist. The city needs to learn from its image, which is very strong … It's not just the jazz, it's the life. Sophisticated pleasure -- they need to stick with that. That's why the world loves them.’”
If I understand Norquist's point, I think he is right. My own view is this: Too much money kills neighborhoods. Andres is the great wise man of gentrification. He has said: If you offer people the chance to upgrade their neighborhoods, but with no increase in property values, will they take it? No.
In general, his insight is deep and right. In New Orleans, however, I think the answer may really be Yes. I would like to find out. New Orleans has superseded New York City as the place where we can still see functioning neighborhoods of the kind Jane Jacobs talked about. These neighborhoods can tolerate a bit of gradual money's being spent, especially if it comes from local people. Cataclysmic money will kill those neighborhoods off, just as surely in New Orleans as it is about to do in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
If Norquist means what I think he does, then he is suggesting that we should provide the infrastructure and let the New Orleaneans do the rest. I hope, without a lot of outside money's going into it. Let their spirit shine. Let's not let shotgun houses become chic hideaways-on-poles for rich Texans.
Mary Campbell Gallagher
Posted by: Mary Campbell Gallagher at Sep 24, 2005 7:13:09 PM