Tuesday, November 14, 2006

River Of Dreams

An earlier post related the agreement between the city and the Port of New Orleans to return part of the riverfront back to the citizens. Now five teams of designers have been chosen to plan the redevelopment.

Nine teams of architects and planners from New Orleans and cities around the world responded to a recent invitation to help plan the redevelopment of a 4.1-mile stretch of publicly owned land along the east bank riverfront.

Among them were at least two winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the highest international honor in the field, and architects from London, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Mexico City, Edinburgh and other cities.

Famous names such as Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, Reiser + Umemoto, TEN Arquitectos and Chan Krieger Sieniewicz adorn the list of applicants to lead what Sean Cummings calls "reinventing the crescent" that gave the Crescent City its nickname.

The foundation of the planning effort is a cooperative endeavor agreement recently agreed to by the city and the Port of New Orleans that spells out what east bank wharves the port will continue to need for maritime activities and what areas will be available for public, nonmaritime redevelopment.

Among other things, the agreement envisions "an uninterrupted and continuous linear green space or riverfront park" along the entire stretch between Jackson and Poland avenues, a "world-class performance venue" at the Louisa Street Wharf or another site, and a hotel and expanded cruise ship terminal at the Julia Street Wharf.

Other possibilities include more cruise ship terminals, hotels, parking garages, museums, an amphitheater, an opera house or a planetarium, according to the city-port document.

Rebirth on the batture

A major goal of the agreement is to expand the area of the riverfront, once devoted entirely to maritime uses, that is available for public use. City leaders have talked about "reclaiming the riverfront" since at least the 1970s, and the process already has resulted in French Quarter and Central Business District attractions such as the Moonwalk, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, the Aquarium of the Americas and the Riverwalk shopping mall.

And the finalists are:

  • Chan Krieger Sieniewicz (planning and urban design), Cambridge, Mass.; Hargreaves Associates (landscape architecture), Cambridge; TEN Arquitectos (architecture), New York; and Eskew + Dumez + Ripple (executive management and urban design), New Orleans.
  • EDAW (planning and landscape architecture), Alexandria, Va.; Frank Gehry (architecture and urban design), Los Angeles; and Marks Associates (landscape consultant), New Orleans.
  • Mathes Brierre Architects, New Orleans; HOK (planning), 23 offices worldwide; and Studio Daniel Libeskind (architecture), New York.
  • Reiser + Umemoto (architecture), New York; Olin Partnership (landscape architecture), Philadelphia; Studio Matrixx (architecture), New Orleans; and Alan Gordon (design consultant).
  • Zaha Hadid Architects, London; Trahan Architects, Baton Rouge; Billes Architecture, New Orleans; Bruce Mau Design, Toronto; and Gross Max Landscape Architects, Edinburgh.
This is a pretty heady group. What is more encouraging is the inclusion of local firms the all the design teams.

After reviewing the location map of the proposed revitalization, I have to ask the question, what will become of the existing wharves in the proposed development area? Don't get me wrong, the wharves are an eyesore and I will be glad to see them go but we cannot ignore economic contribution that the port provides for New Orleans. My guess is they will move either upstream of downstream of downtown New Orleans in either St. Bernard, Jefferson or maybe St. Charles Parish. Or will the Port simply reduce the number of wharves in the city.

The latter seems likely as the port now has more capacity than it needs. However lately, state and local officials have been making trips to Asia and the Persian Gulf to encourage more trade with Louisiana. In addition, Panamanian officials have been visiting Louisiana. This is possibly in conjunction with that country beginning to look at widening the Panama Canal to accommodate larger cargo ships traveling to and from the East/Gulf Coast and Asia. With New Orleans being the largest port in the region and the west coast ports at or near capacity, we are looking at the possibility that New Orleans will see a great up tick in shipping. I wonder if this is being taken into account when redeveloping the riverfront.

I'm not favoring more wharves versus less public access to the river but rather that future needs have to be taken into consideration during the design process.

So to quote Billy Joel:

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To the river so deep
I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night

No comments: