Preserving The Real New Orleans

Rebuilding efforts in New Orleans should embrace "a complex reading of urban history" and not the "sentimental and historicist vision" of New Urbanism argues Nicolai Ouroussoff.
October 20, 2005, 8am PDT | Abhijeet Chavan
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"For decades now, the architectural mainstream has accepted the premise that cities can exist in a fixed point in historical time. What results is a fairy tale version of history, and the consequences could be particularly harsh for New Orleans,..A forum on Gulf Coast renewal held recently in Mississippi was dominated by champions of New Urbanism, a sentimental and historicist vision of how cities work. Meanwhile, those who favor a more complex reading of urban history - one that embraces 20th- and 21st-century realities as well as the 19th-century charms of New Orleans - risk being relegated to the margins...

Doubtless large parts of New Orleans will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. But the best architects working today are as likely to turn to the cavernous Superdome for inspiration as to the spires of St. Louis Cathedral. They understand that a city's 20th-century inventions - from the bungalows to the canals to the freeways - are as integral to its identity as the 19th-century vernacular."

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Published on Sunday, October 23, 2005 in The New York Times
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