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, July 30, 2010

A Building's Resume: International Acclaim

Charles Colbert, architect. Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, Tremé Neighborhood, New Orleans, LA. (1955).

Recent Recognition

2009 Watch List, World Monuments Fund


1959 Annual Exhibition, Architectural League of New York

1958 U.S. State Department Architecture Exhibition, Moscow

1957 U.S. State Department Architecture Exhibition, Berlin

1955 Citation Award, Progressive Architecture

1954 Top Award for "Better School Design Competition" The School Executive

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?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Orleans :: most Progressive Architecture awards :: 1955

In 1955 the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School was awarded a citation for its innovative design by Progressive Architecture.
All of the 22 classrooms for 770 pupils were raised off the ground, in order to provide an open play area, as the building occupies the major part of the site. Two rows of concrete piers support the cantilivered structure. A series of large steel trusses sandwiched between the classroom walls make this cantilever possible. Classrooms are accessible from open corridors, have bilateral lighting and cross ventilation. Administration and combination auditorium / cafeteria are housed in adjoining one-story structure.

In addition to Phillis Wheatley, five other designs by New Orleans architects received awards in Progressive Architecture's second annual Design Awards Program juried by Dr. Walter Gropius.

The Times-Picayune reports, "The designs, which gave New Orleans and Louisiana more awards than any other city or state were done by Curtis and Davis, Charles R. Colbert, John W. Lawrence, George A. Saunders, Buford L. Pickens and John Ekin Dinwiddie. The designs were of six proposed Louisiana buildings."

The envelope please.....

HEALTHCARE Madison Parish Hospital in Tullulah, Curtis and Davis

EDUCATION Phillis Wheatley Elementary School in New Orleans, Charles R. Colbert

RESIDENTIAL Dr. and Mrs. Lyman K. Richardson Residence in Harahan, Curtis and Davis

RESIDENTIAL Vacation House in Lacombe, Lawrence and Saunders

RESIDENTIAL General Electric demonstration house in New Orleans, John Lawrence and George A. Saunders with Buford L. Pickens

RELIGIOUS St. Bernard Methodist Church in Chalmette, John Lawrence and George A. Saunders with John Dinwiddie

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Futurist on Film

Union Tank Car Dome, photograph by Alfred Gebhardt, originally uploaded by anthonyb_chicago.

Yesterday MAKE magazine celebrated Buckminster Fuller's birthday. He would have been 115 years young.

I recently watched Evan Mather's A Necessary Ruin (Handcrafted Films 2009). When the Union Tank Car Dome outside Baton Rouge was completed in 1958 it was the largest clear span structure in the world. This futurist dome was no longer in use and had been abandoned. The Foundation for Historical Louisiana fought for its adaptive reuse, even suggesting that it could be moved to an alternate site. However, the dome was demolished in the secret of night in November 2007, just shy of its fiftieth birthday.

In September DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana will present A Necessary Ruin in a special screening. Date and location to be announced.