Posted March 16th 2011 at 12:23 am by
in Historic Preservation in New Orleans, Postcard Questions, Thesis Chronicles

After Katrina: A chance to build better and stronger?

At the end of January I was in New Orleans conducting research and interviews for my Master’s thesis. I drove around a lot that week finding people and taking photos, and in my rental car’s glove compartment, I had a stack of stamped postcards to distribute wherever I happened to be. Here is the original postcard and a map of some of the places I left cards:

View Postcards in a larger map

Some came back crumpled, and some took their time coming back east, but as of today we’ve received five postcards back out of the 100 we printed. In the coming weeks, I’ll post them as I blog for CoLab about my thesis.

The first card I’ll share resonates with me because if its ambivalence. My thesis is about the historic preservation of some public housing structures in New Orleans after Katrina. These buildings were preserved at a time when hundreds of others were being demolished to make way for new mixed-income communities. While some stakeholders wanted to try to restore all the buildings, and to keep these communities mostly as they had been before the storm, others were convinced that there was a better way to build public housing.

“Lost buildings that could have been restored and community restored. Gained: A chance to rebuild better and stronger.”

Some of those involved in the development of the new communities argued that public housing residents deserved new buildings, not the old ones. Others felt strongly that the historic buildings represented a history that was important enough to commemorate through rehabilitation. As this postcard says succinctly, both sides could be right.

The one or two buildings that remain and will be preserved on each of the public housing sites represent a compromise—albeit a small gesture to those advocating for community or building preservation. My thesis explores how this compromise came about, and how different parties understood the concept and value of historic preservation in the context of redevelopment.

Laura Manville is a Master in City Planning candidate at MIT and a 2010 New Orleans Fellow at CoLab. This summer she did a series of posts on Historic Preservation in New Orleans in which she looked at three different buildings.

One response to “After Katrina: A chance to build better and stronger?”

  1. Ninya says:

    Hi Laura, it’s great to see your post here and hear more about your work in New Orleans! Hope you are having a great semester.