Revolution#114, December 30, 2007

Cheers to Architecture Critic Nicolai Ouroussoff

Cheers to Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times Architecture Critic, speaking out strongly against the government’s move to destroy public housing in New Orleans. Ouroussof wrote that tearing down the public housing project in New Orleans “evokes the most brutal postwar urban-renewal strategies. Neighborhood history is deemed irrelevant; the vague notion of a ‘fresh start’ is invoked to justify erasing entire communities.” (“High Noon in New Orleans: The Bulldozers Are Ready,” New York Times, December 19, 2007)

From an architectural perspective, Ouroussoff observed that the projects in New Orleans “rank among the best early examples of public housing built in the United States, both in design and in quality of construction.” Of the Lafitte housing complex, he wrote: “Low-rise apartments and narrow front porches, set around what were once beautifully landscaped gardens, are intended to encourage a spirit of community.” The deterioration of this housing, Ouroussoff says, is due to “the government’s decision decades ago to gut most of the public services that supported them.” And Ouroussoff wrote, that, “Cast as the city’s saviors, architects are being used to compound one of the greatest crimes in American urban planning.”

Ouroussoff also spoke out against these planned demolitions a year ago in a November 2006 article when he wrote “it’s not surprising that many of [New Orleans’] residents suspect a sinister agenda is at work here. Locked out of the planning process, they fear the planned demolitions are part of a broad effort to prevent displaced poor people from returning to New Orleans.” (“All Fall Down,” New York Times, November 19, 2006)

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