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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Plaza Tower 1968

In 1968, the Gravier Latter and Blum Office distributed an advertising brochure for potential Plaza Tower tenants:

"This imposing structure that soars 45 floors above downtown New Orleans is The Plaza Tower, Office/Residence building scheduled for completion in early 1969.

Located minutes from Canal Street and the financial center, The Plaza Tower avoids the congestion and traffic of the inner city core. It is easily reached from all sections of New Orleans. . . situated at the very hub of the new expressway and Interstate systems."

Image above: The Plaza Tower: Standing Tallest over the New Orleans Skyline. New Orleans: Latter and Blum, c. 1968. Biographical Files (Leonard Spangenberg), The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vanishing AIA Award-Winners in New Orleans

Tulane School of Architecture Professor Robert Gonzalez recently circulated a listing of all AIA national award-winners since 1949. For New Orleans, the list is surprisingly short:

Freret & Wolf, Pontchartrain Beach Bus Shelter (demolished)
Curtis & Davis, Thomy Lafon School (endangered)
Curtis & Davis, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini School (demolished)
Colbert & Lowrey & Associates, Diaz-Simon Pediatric Clinic (demolished)
Charles Colbert, Dr. Henry G. Simon Residence
SOM; Nolan, Norman & Nolan, The John Hancock Building
Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, Kate & Laurence Eustis Chapel, Oschner Clinic

Of these award-winning buildings, only four remain (Lafon School, Simon Residence, John Hancock Building, Eustis Chapel), one of which is slated for demolition by the Recovery School District. For images, consult Regional Modernism's flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xxno/.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Historic Restoration to Begin on Canal Street

Pan American Life Insurance Co.
photo courtesy of the Tulane School of Architecture New Orleans Virtual Archive

Pan American Life Insurance Co. (Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Claude E. Hooton, associate, 1952). Listed on Louisiana Landmarks New Orleans Nine Most Endangered 2007. 

Department Of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Begins Historic Restoration
NEW ORLEANS, LA – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs begins restoration and repair of the original Pan American Life Insurance Company Building,

 “This marks the first of many steps to come as we work towards our goal of creating a 21st century state-of-the-art health care system for our Veterans,” said Ms. Julie Catellier, Director Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. “Veterans have waited patiently for the return of a Veteran’s hospital since the floodwaters of Katrina forced the closure of the VA Medical Center on Perdido Street. It is an honor to serve our Veterans and continue our mission of providing health care to America’s heroes.”
The Pan American Life Insurance Company Building at 2400 Canal Street, listed individually on the National Register for Historic Places is a significant representation of post-World War II International style architecture.
Designed by internationally renowned New York and Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the 1953 building was the headquarters of the Pan American Life Insurance Company.  The building has a steel frame, glass walls and aluminum sunscreens to shield the interior from the sun. Original features included an elevated terraced entrance and interior courtyard. More recently, the building was used as a City Hall Annex but is currently closed and out of service.
Restoration of The Pan American building will help preserve New Orleans’ unique architectural heritage while simultaneously honoring New Orleans’ proud history of innovation and design. Studio NOVA, a joint venture of NBBJ and local partners Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and Rozas Ward Architects, is the design team for the restoration of the building. Clark/McCarthy Healthcare Partners, in association with local firms Woodward Design+Build and Landis Construction Company, was selected as the Integrated Design and Construct (IDc) contractor and is currently providing preconstruction services to the VA and design team. The Pan Am building will be the first building to come on line as part of the new VA Medical Center, housing education, training, recruitment and administrative services. The VA Medical Center project is scheduled for completion in 2013. The new facility will provide comprehensive healthcare to over 70,000 enrolled Veterans when it opens."


UPDATE: Mid-City hospital complex land seized by state; former owners plan to sue
Why would the Times-Picayune not mention these plans for historic restoration? 

Monday, March 8, 2010


At the end of February DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana convened to elect new officers. I am honored to be President and excited to be partnered with Vice-President Wayne Troyer, Treasurer Hilairie Schackai and Secretary Maryann Miller. We are thrilled to welcome Interns Lindsey Derrington and Ian Daniels of the Tulane School of Architecture Historic Preservation program.

We are working on establishing an active agenda for the spring, but first would like to take a few moments to review the impressive accomplishments and significant challenges of our recent past.

2008. Docomomo US officially recognized the Louisiana / New Orleans chapter under the leadership of President Toni DiMaggio. Toni was supported by Vice-President Jim Albert, Treasurer Melissa Urcan and Secretary Rainier Simoneaux. In our inaugural year we participated in the Section 106 Review of two structures integral to the Civic Center complex, the State Office Building and State Supreme Court. Ultimately both were demolished without plans for redevelopment. In March we successfully nominated four mid-century modern schools to the Louisiana Landmark Society's New Orleans Nine Most Endangered List. In June Design Within Reach hosted our first event. John Klingman presented a slideshow of modernist buildings in the area, some at risk, others already and since demolished. In October we organized Modernism and Desire: A Streetcar Tour of Endangered Buildings in conjunction with AIA New Orleans. At the end of the year many of our members commented on the 106 Review of the School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish which threatens to obliterate almost all modernist schools from the New Orleans landscape.

2009. The Year of the Emergency Cocktail. Formal meetings were supplemented by sudden calls to arms at the Columns and Bridge Lounge. We successfully fought for Hoffman Elementary in the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee reviews only to have the decision reversed by City Council. We were inundated with FEMA 106 meetings related to Wheatley and Lafon Elementary Schools. We participated in public meetings and continue to monitor the process of the 106 review. The year ended on a high note with the announcement that Charles Colbert's Phillis Wheatley Elementary School was named to the World Monuments Fund 2010 Watch. We need to remain vigilant as the building remains at risk. The Recovery School District still fails to secure the building allowing vandalism to increase.

2010. Not only did the Saints win the Super Bowl, but the Superdome's design was recognized as an acoustical weapon for the 12th Man at home. Landmark it now! Speaking of landmarks, the HDLC recently designated several modern buildings on Canal Street. These include the IBM/Red Cross Building(2460), Grace Episcopal Church (3700), Automotive Life Insurance Building (4140), Singer Sewing Company (4176) and Hope Mausoleum (4841).

One of our immediate goals is to increase our presence online and on the streets. This site, and twitter account have been established as a preliminary web presence. Members of Docomomo will be invited and encouraged to contribute. We also intend to focus on ways to educate the community about modernist buildings in all New Orleans neighborhoods. Currently we are working on submissions to the New Orleans Nine Most Endangered List for 2010 (due March 22, forms here). Next meeting is scheduled TUESDAY March 9 at 6 pm, Tulane School of Architecture, room 305. Hope to see you there!

Francine Stock