2008 New Orleans Mobile Workshop




Upon arrive at the airport our group was met by the City’s Executive Director of the Historic District Landmark Commission, Elliott Perkins.  He provided us with an overview bus tour of New Orleans’ neighborhoods affected by the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina. 

Some areas visited included the location of the levee breach in Lakeside, observing the current reconstruction, deconstruction, in-fill projects and some environmental effects such as the lost of most Magnolia trees due to the flood water.  One preservation highlight was the creation of Project Green.  Green Project operates a warehouse store that resells high-quality, salvaged building materials at low cost to the community. The store is dedicated to helping the environment by reducing the amount of usable materials placed in landfills or disposed of improperly.

Overall the magnitude of the areas affected by the flood water was overwhelming and the work accomplished since 2005 is admirable, but far from complete.

Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans

Our next speaker was Pam Bryan, Director of “Operation Comeback”, Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans (PRC).  The Preservation Resource Center's Operation Comeback promotes the purchase and renovation of vacant historic properties. Although started in 1987 as a focused effort to revitalize the Lower Garden District, since Hurricane Katrina Operation Comeback’s roll has expanded rapidly to neighborhoods devastated by the floods and now works with dozens of neighborhood associations and community development corporations citywide to revitalize New Orleans. 

Ms. Bryan provided our group a tour of the PRC offices and bus tour of some of Operation Comeback’s completed projects in Holly Cross and the Lower Ninth Ward.  The loss of nearly 1,600 lives in Louisiana was not lost on the group when visiting these areas.
Ending our first full day was a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Tulane University, Jeff Chambers.

Professor Chambers research although based in the forests of the Amazon, was able to use the models developed in South American to better understand the affects from Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast areas from the climate to the high tree mortality in a bottomland hardwood forest of the Pearl River basin.

Following the lost of over 320 million trees it can be seen that the rapidly colonizing of these disturbed areas with the invasive species like the Chinese tallow trees.

 DAY 2
Our second day began with Patricia Gay the Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans (PRC). Ms. Gay worked immediately coordinated with the National Trust insure the preservation of many historic structures threatened after the Katrina. 

The PRC reviewed techniques they help perfect to help save historic structures ravished with mold that otherwise would be demolished.  Her non-profit organization and lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina will be invaluable to the National Trust and other national historic districts. 

Our thoughts immediately turned to the summer flooding in Iowa, Missouri and other areas along the Mississippi River.

The workshop also included the after affects of Katrina on Mid-Century Modern architecture in New Orleans as presented by Melissa Urcan the Executive Director of the local chapter of the A.I.A.

She provided an overview of the City’s regional modern architecture with a tour of noted commercial, governmental and even residential examples of New Orleans’ Modern Architecture.

Mid-Century Modern

One stop included the residence of an 82-year old architect Albert Ledner. [As luck would be he was working on his roof while we passed by!] His house is one of 40 or so modern but eccentric New Orleans residences he designed including a modern residence built in 1962 for a pair of ardent smokers which has a procession of 1,200 gold glass ashtrays running just below its roofline; it is now the home of the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin.


A lunchtime stop may not typically be a cause of inspiration, but our Workshop Chair, Del Acosta selected a location that was equally insightful as the restoration efforts in the City.

Café Reconcile was founded by a Jesuit priest and a local developer.  Together they have created a place for inner-city youths to develop a vocation in the hospitality industry of New Orleans. 

In recent years the Food Network and visits by the First Lady Laura Bush has heighted national their successes.
The last tour highlighted the long preservation successes in the Lower Garden District and along Magazine Street.   With the exception of commercial buildings, most historic structures are set back from the sidewalk behind ornamental fences of wood or cast-iron.  Some have even been able to maintain their side garden. 


The workshop concluded with a streetcar ride along St. Charles Avenue to the historic Commander’s Palace in the Garden District.  The group enjoyed a gourmet five-course dinner in one of their private salons.  Following dinner, the Executive Chef Chef, Tory McPhail was able to greet all of us. 



The AIA Tampa Bay wishes to express their appreciation for the support of the

2008 NOLA Mobile Workshop to our sponsors: John Rosende, Jr., Jeld-Wen and The Molding Depot, Inc. of Tampa .


For additional information visit: www.aiatampabay.com