ruminations about architecture and design

Monday, January 20, 2014

it was all too easy

Modern architecture and planning has not been kind to downtown New Orleans. The main commercial district consists of some of the worst examples of post-war design that I have ever seen. Monolithic high rises and high speed roadways speak to a vast conspiracy of the nihilistic functionalism. I can imagine  how the scenes played out in the 50's and 60's as the white men from the firms gathered in rooms around the models and renderings of buildings that were in complete contradiction to the mad charm of the French Quarter. They all smoked unflitered cigarettes as the Harvard architects presented their dismal tributes to the gods of modernism--the derivative Miesian slabs of office space with tinted windows and yards of buff concrete. The triumphant claustrophobia of the Superdome.

Why did the Art Deco never contribute anything to that surreal place? I feel like there was a big leap from the 1800's to the darkness of the mid 20th century. I can imagine the great river washing it clean one day--with boat tours through the shattered canyons of the office buildings, all the history drowned in the relentless brown water, and the echo of jazz from the hot nights so long ago on Bourbon Street.

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