Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Week 7 - New Orleans: Reflecting, Revision, Regeneration, Reconstruction, Reintegration

New Orleans: Reflecting, Revision, Regeneration, Reconstruction, Reintegration

In the continual development of cities there are events, sometimes catastrophic, which transform the physical and ephemeral identity of that city. Hurricane Katrina not only destroyed homes, businesses, and historic institutions, but also communities and thus attributed to a larger sense of loss. When confronted with loss, many are often comforted through memory and a recollection of the past with others. How can this reconstruction and regeneration of community become envisioned through an architectonic presence?

The program of housing in a Post-Katrina New Orleans has the potential to reflect upon a multiplicity of conditions new to the city. In addition to the physical damage caused by the elements, the city must negotiate the eventual return of evacuees and the potential settling of current aid and construction workers. What is the role of high density housing in a city where the sense of home has been destroyed, residents have been displaced, and the media continually visualizes progress. How can architecture reflect upon the past in order to prevent the possibility for social breakdown in future catastrophic events?
The second half of the semester will focus on developing a critical position towards the role of housing and its ability to aid in the formulation of community.

Thanks to our professor, the studio now has a library in the school. One of the first additions ot the collection is Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. An appropriate passage (for the current studio phase) on the memory and scale of a city (and my favorite):

Cities & Memory 3

In vain, great hearted Kublai, shall I attempt to describe Zaira, city of high bastions. I could tell how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and the degree of the arcades’ curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past: the height of a lamppost and the distance from the ground of a hanged usurper’s swaying feet; the line strung from the lamppost to the railing opposite and the festoons that decorate the course of the queen’s nuptial procession; the height of that railing and the leap of the adulterer who climbed over it at dawn; the tilt of the guttering and a cat’s progress along it as he slips into the same window; the firing range of a gunboat which has suddenly appeared beyond the cape and the bomb that destroys the guttering; the rips in the fish net and the three old men seated on the dock mending nets and telling each other for the hundredth time the story of the gunboat of the usurper, who some say was the queen’s illegitimate son, abandoned in his swaddling clothes there on the dock.

As this wave from memories flows in, the city soaks it up like a sponge and expands. A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira’s past. The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.

I'd like to offer a link of my own to the library. This follows through with my analysis and design from the prior two efforts in this studio. We have covered visual ownership, and we have covered privacy/security, but when naming the constituents (the insider and the outsider), I failed to mention IDENTITY. Identity seems blurred, also, because it is not necessarily a physical phenomenon:


Thoughts? I wonder, how would Italo Calvino scale Zaira when considering identity in this regard? How does the prior example scale (analysis and design) of territory, visual ownership, and privacy/security?


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