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Can New Orleans Be Saved?

8 Ways to Save and Protect Flood-Prone Regions


Small Creole Plantation House in Louisiana

Small Creole Plantation House in Louisiana

Photo posted by Forum Member "nolanwb"
Like any large city, New Orleans has many sides. New Orleans is the colorful city of Mardi Gras, jazz, French Creole architecture, and thriving shops and restaurants. And then there is the darker side of New Orleans - mostly in the low-lying flood zones - populated by the very poor. With so much of the New Orleans lying below sea level, devastating floods are inevitable. How can we preserve the historic buildings, protect the people, and prevent another catastrophic flood?

8 Ways to Save New Orleans

In 2005, while New Orleans struggled to recover from hurricane Katrina, architects and other experts proposed ways to help and protect the flood-prone city. Much progress has been made, but the hard work continues.

1.Restore the History

The flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina spared the most famous historic neighborhoods: the French Quarter, the Garden District, and the Warehouse District. But other areas of historic importance were damaged. Preservationists are working to assure that valuable landmarks are not bulldozed.

2. Look Beyond the Tourist Centers

Most architects and city planners agree that we should preserve historic buildings in upscale neighborhoods and popular tourist areas. However, most of the damage took place in lowland regions where impoverished Creole blacks and "Anglo" African Americans settled. Some planners and social scientists argue that true reconstruction of the City will require restoring not just buildings but social networks: schools, shops, churches, playgrounds, and other places where people gather and form relationships.

3. Provide Efficient Public Transportation

According to many urban planners, the secret to making cities work is a speedy, efficient, clean transportation system. In their view, New Orleans needs a network of bus corridors that will connect neighborhoods, encourage business, and stimulate a diverse economy. Automobile traffic can channeled around the rim of the city, making the interior neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly. Newsday writer Justin Davidson suggests Curitiba, Brazil as a model for this type of city.

4. Stimulate the Economy

New Orleans is riddled with poverty. Many economists and political thinkers say that reconstructing the buildings is not enough if we don't address the social problems. These thinkers believe that New Orleans needs tax breaks and other financial incentives to stimulate business.

5. Find Solutions in Vernacular Architecture

As we rebuild New Orleans, it will be important to construct homes that are suited to the soggy ground and humid climate. The so-called "shacks" in New Orleans' blighted neighborhoods should not be underestimated. Constructed by local craftsmen in the 19th century, these simple wooden homes can teach us valuable lessons about weather-ready building design. Instead of heavy mortar or bricks, the homes were made with insect-resistant cypress, cedar, and virgin pine. The lightweight frame construction meant that the houses could be elevated on brick or stone piers. Air could easily circulate beneath the homes and through the open, high-ceilinged rooms, which slowed the growth of mold.

6. Find Solutions in Nature

An innovative new science called Biomimicry recommends that builders and designers observe forests, butterflies, and other living things for clues on how to construct buildings that will withstand storms.

7. Choose a Different Location

Some people say that we should not attempt to reconstruct the flooded neighborhoods of New Orleans. Because these neighborhoods lie below sea level, they will always be at risk for more flooding. Poverty and crime were concentrated in these low-lying neighborhoods. So, according to some critics and government officials, the new New Orleans should be constructed in a different location, and in a different way.

8. Develop New Technologies

Over a hundred years ago, the entire city of Chicago was constructed on reclaimed swampland. Much of the city is only a few feet above Lake Michigan's water surface. Perhaps we can do the same with New Orleans. Instead of rebuilding in a new, drier location, some planners suggest we develop new technologies for defeating nature.

New Orleans Updates

To learn about post-Katrina New Orleans, including restoration of popular tourist areas, see:
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