Sunday, November 26, 2006
Heroes Fiddle While Home Burns
WE'RE coming up on 1 year and 3 months since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the city that time forgot. Almost two-thirds of the former residents of the city still have not returned, and many areas of the city continue to lack services as fundamental as working traffic lights. Houses sit empty, because few house payments have been made by FEMA, Louisiana and the insurance companies.
The School of Architecture at Tulane University should be a center of the rebuilding of its great city. Instead, its Dean, who wrote a much-ridiculed article entitled Black Like Me (photo above), is on TV hosting a program designing "the future" of New York, a city so thriving that apartments routinely sell for more than $1,000 a square foot. Still to come are programs on Los Angeles and Chicago, two more cities overflowing with people so eager to be in them that the cities have rarely looked better or had better economies.
Of course Tulane does devote time to the present in New Orleans as well. You can see links to some of the efforts here, like Project New Orleans. But the current avant-garde ideologies of the architectural establishment make them ineffective and even counter productive. The Dean was so outspoken in his cries for avant garde solutions (and his disdain for those who disagreed, like Governor Blanco), that he was forced to resign his position on Mayor Nagin's Bring Back New Orleans Commission.
The Project New Orleans show of "all" student work doesn't include traditional designs from students at the University of Miami (where I'm teaching this semester) and Notre Dame (where I'm teaching next semester). And having been banished from the real work going on in New Orleans, the Dean organized an architectural think fest in Amsterdam (of all places) and ArtForum. In the public forum of New Orleans, the work sank like a stone.
The latest news is that Mayor Nagin, often criticized for moving too slowly and doing too little, has listened to the architects who say that what New Orleans needs in its year of crisis is more avant garde architecture. Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and other celebrities are being brought in to "reinvent the Crescent" and help make New Orleans safe for developers who want to build big glass boxes. The myth of the Howard-Roark-style architectural hero lives on, despite five decades of ego-driven invention making our cities worse places to live.
Will Starchitects be the salvation of New Orleans? Or are Modern architects squabbling about style instead of rebuilding the city?
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YES! What you don't mention is that while Kroloff's reputation and influence sink in New Orleans, his national reputation in academia rises. He speaks for many architecture professors.
Posted by: steve at Nov 26, 2006 10:09:16 AM
The smart money says that
jerkoff Kroloff doesn't like New Orleans and is angling for a new job somewhere else.
Posted by: anon at Nov 26, 2006 10:11:17 AM
The deanship of Tulane School of Architecture has long been either a stepping stone to something bigger or a consolation prize for well-connected mediocrities. I could name names, but that would be catty.
What's truly sad is that Reed and company aren't that well respected in avant-gard circles: they're just the nerdy kids who let the cool kids trash their parents' house.
Posted by: a son of new orleans at Nov 26, 2006 11:22:36 AM
Son of NOLA -
I guess that depends on how you define the avant-garde. Of course Libeskind and Zaha aren't going to elevate him to their status, because he doesn't design.
But Reed's national standing among the architectural establishment has gone way up because of his attacks on New Urbanism and his promotion of current architectural fashion -- which is what most people mean when they say "the avant-garde." They stopped being genuinely avant-garde a long time ago.
Posted by: anon at Nov 26, 2006 11:40:26 AM
There's a prestigious job opening at the Netherlands Architecture Institute. Kroloff held his charrette in Holland, with the outgoing director involved (they know each other from their student days at Yale), and the NAI serving as a sponsor.
Coincidence? I don't think so.
Posted by: danny at Nov 26, 2006 11:48:53 AM
You guys are nuts. Look at that picture -- Reed's My Hero!
Posted by: johnnybgood at Nov 26, 2006 11:58:30 AM
If you consider the mainstream journals the establishment, yes, RK and Co. are getting some added credibility. And yes, what they promote isn't particularly avant-garde; all of the Global Green projects are relatively buildable for less than $10K psf!
Still, dontcha think that RK is very Anthony Michael Hall trying to hang with Matt Dillon? (although the metaphor breaks down when one remembers that it was MD's parents' house that got trashed in 16 Candles)
Posted by: a son of new orleans at Nov 26, 2006 12:05:21 PM
I think the point is that Reed & Co., the architecture schools, the magazines etc. present themselves as avant-garde.
Posted by: john at Nov 26, 2006 12:16:25 PM
Your remark that heroes fiddle is absolutely correct. I'm an architect in New Orleans (working in anonymity by the way) doing the work necessary to bring this city back. Very little of it is glamorous. Most of if involves doing repairs and renovations to buildings that were damaged by the flood. Superdome repairs, prisons, hospitals, colleges, clinics, etc...
If these architects wanted to be useful, they would stop sucking each others' [redacted] and get their hands dirty in the trenches for a change.
I apologize for the the colorful remark about the architects but I couldn't think of a better term for their uselessness. [that's okay - i edited it - ed]
Posted by: Kinch at Nov 29, 2006 6:15:40 PM