rethinking urbanism

Published in Bracket’s 2009 almanac, this collection of images and prose outlines a 12-point plan for resurrecting New Orleans.

On Farming
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New Orleans is a ragged city. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this metropolis has rebounded in fits and starts, with the gap-toothed development of new housing flanking broken buildings, and swaths of activity ringing large vacant sections of the city. While Frederick Jackson Turner asserted in the 1890’s that the “frontier has gone,” and Joel Garreau declared Edge Cities “the final frontier,” the shrinking city of New Orleans offers up a fresh model of untested territory. In New Orleans, the last frontier may actually be found in the resurrection of urban wilderness.

It is expected that the recovery of New Orleans will engage the same narrative that served to legitimize the settlement of the New World, incorporating capitalism, technology and the heavy footprint of human development. The spirit of the city, however, is much better suited to a radical grassroots approach. Beyond the unconventional urban forms traced by New Orleans’ canals and neutral ground, lie equally unique place-based issues, such as high soil toxicity, extreme wealth disparity and the threat of flooding from a sunken topography. New Orleans shoulders such a magnitude, multitude and curious assortment of problems that the city defies conventional solutions.