09 March 2006

Andres Duany/DPZ Arabi/St. Bernard Parish Design Charrette

Tuesday night I attended the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) Arabi/St.Bernard design charrette kickoff meeting. The presentation consisted of Andres Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) Architects and Town Planners conducting a Q&A with the standing-room crowd in the St. Bernard Parish Courthouse council chambers.

Because of my educational background and personal interests I am very familiar with Mr. Duany and his firm's work and have visited several of the developments they've designed including Seaside and Celebration (TM). The firm advocates the "new urbanism" approach to planning and design and has been an unquestioned influence worldwide in planning and design methodology over the past twenty years. Since KTMB, DPZ has done such charrettes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well as within Louisiana in Lake Charles and in Vermilion Parish. The purpose of these charrettes are for the planners/designers to touch base with the residents of the place so in theory the components of the plan will reflect the direct concerns, interests, and needs specific to that particular citizenry. The purpose of such charrettes is not to bombard someone like Andres Duany with questions such as "Why hasn't my insurance company paid my claim?" or "Was it true 'they' are going to build a golf course where my house--that I've already started working on--is?"

I arrived at the council chambers about 15 minutes after the presentation began so I did not get to hear Mr. Duany's opening statements. The chamber was packed with at least 400 people and by the time I got there was standing-room only. From the onset, it didn't quite seem like most of the people there understood the purpose of the gathering. Nine of ten questions asked by the audience were those Mr. Duany was not qualified to answer because they weren't questions dealing with the specific purpose of why he and his team are there. He handled the sometimes hostile crowd quite well and explained that getting a plan down on paper immediately--featuring the use of vernacular building techniques and establishing a new land use/zoning code--would increase the odds of St. Bernard getting federal assistance funds sooner than later. Mr. Duany singled out how textbook bad the built environment of Judge Perez Drive (strip malls, etc.) was and how the plan would improve the functionality and appearance--and hopefully future--of St. Bernard's main artery.

Of course no group meeting in St. Bernard Parish would be complete without anti-New Orleans sentiment and the rumblings of it were heard several times throughout the night. One man stood up and opened with the 1927 dynamiting of the River levee at Caernarvon "to save the City of New Orleans" story (which is true) and ended up with his opinion of the undeniable fact that the same thing happened in 1965 during Betsy and again in August 2005 during KTMB to which he received a favorable crowd reaction. Perhaps a levee should be constructed along the St. Bernard/Orleans boundary (like exists between Jefferson/Orleans) from Earhart Expressway to River Road) to theoretically prevent any flooding from the the Inner Harbor Canal into the Lower Ninth Ward reaching Arabi and St. Bernard Parish . . .

Tomorrow night (Friday) there is a scheduled public viewing/discussion of the "in-progress" work and then next Wednesday (15 March 2006) the final presentation will be made--which I plan to attend.


At March 09, 2006 11:10 PM, Anonymous ashley said...

Yes, it was bombed. By terrorists.

Seaside is a bit too disney-esque, but if you pre-fab them all, it could work in Da Parish. I still like that Katrina Cottage idea better, but that's a NOLA thing. Da Parish needs to have lots and lots of stilts.


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