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

Thursday, May 6, 2010

DOCOMOMO advocates for the adaptive reuse of the Wheatley School

The School Facilites Master Plan of Orleans Parish has consistently threatened to eradicate important mid-century modern public schools from New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods. From the outset, DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana identified Charles Colbert’s Phillis Wheatley Elementary as one of the most architecturally significant buildings of the twentieth century.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency assessed the building as eligible for the National Register, thereby triggering the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 Process. DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana -- in an effort to save the building -- agreed to participate as a Consulting Party in the Section 106 Process. Since the NHPA review process began, the World Monuments Fund has cited the structure for its 2010 Watch List, referring to it as an “architectural gem unique to New Orleans.”

As public support for adaptive reuse has grown, the RSD has acknowledged that Wheatley is not a generic twentieth-century building and deserves to be considered carefully. The hiring of Holly and Smith Architects to assess the feasibility of adaptive reuse is an acknowledgment of the building’s importance. In fact, Wheatley is the only Orleans Parish School Facility which the RSD has considered for adaptive reuse.

The successful renovation of Charles Colbert's McDonogh 36 School by the Early Childhood Family Learning Foundation demonstrates the feasibility of adaptive reuse for mid-century modern school architecture and provides a model by which Wheatley may be rehabilitated as a twenty-first century school.

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