d o c o m o m o l o u i s i a n a is a regional chapter of an international committee dedicated to the

documentation and conservation of the buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Intelligent Design with Principles of Sustainability and Modernism in Mind

Vision::Aerie School Threatened with Demolition
The Phillis Wheatley Elementary School is already elevated above the 100 year flood elevation - one of the most important factors for any building located in the city. Even though the classrooms did not flood after Hurricane Katrina, the school has remained shuttered for five years.

The open design of the building adds to the positive learning environment by creating an unrestricted open air feel. The original design utilized a beautiful glass wall exterior to allow large amounts of natural light into the classroom. Natural light has since been proven to aid in the learning process and combat depression.

The boarded window downgrade was likely to combat the heat element. However, since then glass and window construction tech has drastically improved so that double and triple pane Argon filled panels could be utilized to to reduce heat transfer yet retain the architectural beauty of the original design.

Due to the large flat roof and large glass windows, electricity needs could be subsidized through the use of solar panels. This is a vital point, since New Orleans is one of the largest solar cities in America and mid-century pieces were designed to be easily upgraded as technology advanced.

This unique school facility provides abundant sheltered play space, natural light and ventilation. Supports are in the middle of the building. The extensions are cantilevered about 35 feet from the supports - a very muscular kind of support, more often seen in bridge design. The elevated structure has a regional architectural sensibility. The earliest buildings of the French Quarter and around Louisiana were all elevated, not just for flood protection, but also to increase natural ventilation. The breeze is always a little bit stronger when you get above ground.

New facilities (performance spaces, band rooms, kindergarten) can be sympathetically constructed on the site adjacent to a renovated historic modern school.

The Mahalia Jackson Elementary School (also by architect Charles Colbert 1954) has been significantly renovated. The new Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood Family Learning Center is now serving the Central City community. If they can do it in Central City, why not Tremé?

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