10 Years/10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery

10 Years/10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery examines the role of architects in post-hurricane Katrina recovery. The exhibit included forward looking elements such as an interactive component and panel discussion on the future of resilient architecture in New Orleans.

The theme of the EP Exhibit 2016 is It Takes a Community. Selected projects showcase the best work from young designers highlighting community impact and engagement.

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On August 29, 2005, New Orleans was changed forever by Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees. To commemorate the tenth anniversary, a group of Emerging Professionals in AIA New Orleans developed an ambitious project exploring the role that architects played in the city’s recovery. The project took two formats: a retrospective exhibit entitled “10 Years/10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery,” and a forward looking panel discussion entitled “The Next 10 Years.”

The exhibit examined the question: What roles did architects play over the last ten years? Through community planning, civic engagement, leadership, activism, and design, architects in New Orleans shaped the city’s rebuilding process. Stories told in the exhibit highlight significant work, contributions, and successes, as well as missed opportunities. The exhibit also looks ahead to the future of the city, framing issues for the future of architecture as a profession and community.

Curating these stories began with a process of inviting members in the local architectural community to share personal experiences and recommend projects via distributed postcards or through the project’s website, 10years10stories.com. The exhibit team combed through the submissions and worked for months to gather information, research projects, and interview individuals about their specific contributions.

For participation and feedback the project team engaged practitioners ranging from firm principals to recent graduates; from city department heads to leaders of nonprofit organizations. This participatory approach resulted in a collective memory woven through stories that showcased the dynamism of architectural practice in post Katrina New Orleans.

As research continued, broad, interconnected themes emerged and were organized into the “10 Stories”: Community, Culture, Design Awareness, Environment, Equality, Finance, Growth, Policy, Resiliency, and What’s Next. The physical exhibit, located in AIA New Orleans’ Center for Design, featured ten freestanding triangular pillars, each with a collection of projects, quotations, narratives, and graphics that tell a holistic “story.” On a long wall with large storefront windows, a fourteen foot tall “floodwall” displayed the incremental depth of water that inundated neighborhoods across the city, allowing visitors to directly understand the flooding. Key projects were shown in their respective flood depths to highlight each neighborhood’s recovery.

An interactive component of the exhibit asked the question, “What’s Next for New Orleans?” and invited visitors to write their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. This feature, spanning an entire wall of exhibit space, was quickly filled with responses ranging from affordable housing to public art to design education. The topics that emerged from the wall helped generate questions for the second part of the project, a panel discussion entitled “The Next 10 Years.”

The panel discussion explored the possible roles that architects can play over the next decade. Panelists, all local experts in design fields, forecast the challenges and opportunities facing the profession. The discussion centered on the contributions of architecture across the urban fabric of the city, community engagement as integral to practice, the call to make the profession more socially inclusive, and the desire to incorporate social and environmental commitments into practice.

Image credits

10 Years/10 Stories: Architecture of Recovery

Jose Alvarez, AIA; Mary Bullock, Assoc. AIA; Amy Garrett, Assoc. AIA; Mary Gilmore, AIA; Gretchen Gottfried, Chuck Perret, Amanda Rivera, AIA; Miriam Salas, AIA; Janina Scalfano, AIA; Thom Smith, AIA; Jordan Stewart