New Orleans, Louisiana
The flooding in New Orleans resulting from Hurricane Katrinia and the failure of the levees not only damaged physical structures and displaced citizens to near and far-flung locations around the country but also it displaced the cultural landscape that the defined life in the city... its, patterns, rhythms, flows, and ways of “being” that makes (made) New Orleans a particular place. In addition, that cultural landscape is (was) defined by relationships race, class, and power stewed together and flavored by music, food, architecture, Creole culture, voodoo, celebration, and decadence.
The flooding revealed that situated in this stew are (were) levels of poverty and subsistent existence rarely exposed in such a visceral manner as to immediately call into question structures of power and the relationships between the haves and the have-nots. The site for the Guste Elementary school exists within this revealed condition.
The urban design strategy of the proposed design is to situate the new school as an urban instrument to recover, reveal, and restrategize relationships within the Guste / Central City neighborhood. Hence, the proposed intervention which includes new housing (at the site of the previously demolished Guste Houses and along Erato Street between S. Claiborne and Magnolia) in addition to the school operates as urban infrastructure to support relationships in the cultural landscape as well as to be a place of education for all in the neighborhood.
The spatial strategy of the proposed design is to signify the flows and rhythms of the neighborhood through fluid spatial relationships that overlap and are phenomenally transparent while simultaneously extending spaces over, under, alongside, above, and across each other to connect within the fabric of the urban / cultural landscape.
The programmatic strategy of the proposed design is to cross program the collective spaces of the school with public uses.
The intention of the design intervention is to go beyond the singularity of the architectural object as a symbol of the existing condition to catalyze an infrastructure to that seeks to spatialize the cultural landscape within the urban fabric. The design proposes four segmented bars of housing along Thalia Street at the location of the previously demolished Guste Houses. The new housing consists of public spaces at the ground level beneath the five-story bars. The public spaces can serve a variety of functions from Mardi Gras Indian parade construction to Friday afternoon "fish-frys." Along the south elevation of each housing bar is an "urban hedge" or vegetated scrim that extends the landscape from ground to vertical surface and serves as a breil-soleil to southern and southwestern sun exposures. Terraces are located in the reveals between the vegetated scrims and the face of each building.
Situated between the new housing bars and the existing Guste Houses is a "tilted landscape" of outdoor programs including public swimming pool and bathhouse, basketball courts and "pick-up" canopy, Senior Citizen Garden and shaded seating area, Double Dutch court, and community play areas. The "tilted landscape" ramps from east to west and leads to the elevated porch (+8'-0" above street level) between the tethered bars of the school building. The space between the school bars provides an enclosed and protected play area for school children during daytime hours.