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Reviving the Cresent Between catastrophes, strategies, and utopian expectations

Reviving the Cresent Between catastrophes, strategies, and utopian expectations

Paper Submitted for a-H02N9a-0910 Urban Design Strategies Guidance

Paola Viganò Michiele Dehaene

Aryani Sari Rahmanti Dagnachew Getachew Aseffa Inaki Hernandez Marta Llamas Payam Tabriziyan Image front page: Historical map of New Orleans and Katrina flooding, remodified by authors.


The cataclysmic devastation which occurred in the City of New Orleans resulting from its direct exposure to the two consecutive major scale hurricanes in 2005 (Katrina and Rita) is perceived to be a momentous reference in portraying how extensively the hazardous impact of climate change is able to affect the city. As a response to its loss, immediate and long term initiatives to rebuild the community and the city were instigated by establishing a comprehensive methodology incorporating leading notions of resiliency into its retrieval process. This paper discloses the appreciation of contextual approaches in urban planning and design in addressing the consequences of macro environmental issues. We believe that the change of climate condition should be particularly positioned as a crucial basis toward urban development strategy. To begin with, inventories of New Orleans as an urbanism situated in a delta area with extreme natural rhythms and a direct exposure to pressures of global weather change [sea level rise] will be unfolded. Then the previous ‘survival techniques’ which were in place and the reasons behind their failure will be investigated to better understand the ‘Post Katrina’ paradigm shifts. To this end, several urban projects proposals will be looked at in an attempt to trace these ideological changes, by means of reading them in light of theoretical frameworks of resilient cities and urban utopias, and in conclusion the discourse between the interpretation of the challenges of climatic change and its transplantation in the strategies in urban projects will be thoroughly assessed.





Introduction: Appreciation of Climate Change


Understanding New Orleans

Context Water: blessings and curse Resistive measures Hurricane Katarina: A Wake Up Call


Traces of a Paradigm Shift: Thoughts of a resilient New Orleans


New Orleans as testing ground Social resiliency and New Orleans Following the actual renovation Where is the Water? [Dutch Dialogues] Sea Level: Balancing New Orleans


Concluding Remark: Can New Orleans reach the reverie?




Reinterpreting Disaster Disaster. One powerful word we do not wish to undergo no matter how insignificant it could be. Disaster is defined as a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction; or, broadly: a sudden or great misfortune or failure (Webster dictionary). Disaster can be portrayed in our minds clarified in words as follows (Quarantelli, 2005; Alexander, 2005) the enormity of the event; the paradoxical beauty—or at least the visual novelty—of destruction; the courage of rescuers; humanity reasserted amid terrible physical destruction; the pathos of charity and solidarity; the triumph of moral purpose over arbitrariness or malevolence; the value of determination and staying power; the wonder of an indomitable spirit. Disaster may draw its own specific and perceptive definition, in terms of changes in culture, society, and international relations (Quarantelli, 2005); the roots, the scales; afflicted object; affected area; and the effects. The affordability of mitigating disaster diverges from the ones capable to the incapable in coping with. Disaster can be ‘affordable’, if we look at it from the recovery and capable coping efforts standpoint to allow resiliency (Cutter, Quarantelli, 2005). “On average about 220 natural catastrophes, 70 technological disasters and three new armed conflicts occur each year.” (IFRCRC,2002) Urban disasters happens due to an extreme event causes extensive damage to some or the entire built environment, the people and institutions that inhabit the built environment, and the relationships among those people and institutions and the outside world. For the purpose of our paper, we narrow our clarity on perceiving disaster in urban context, as a result of disturbance in extensive or some of the entire area of an existing urban system, affecting multi elements (community, the built and non built environment, institutions), which represents the components, temporality or permanently, lethal in its performance, roles, and functions within that complex system and with respect to elements of its environment (Alesch, 2003).

The Nature Power

“The metaphysical model of the two worlds of man and nature is placed in opposition to each other, and their interactions cannot be avoided� (Tjallingii, 1996).

Mother earth has carried a challenging task since the simplest occupation phase of human civilizations. Through the process of settling down, the interface between human and nature has constructed a particular wisdom of how the nature has been perceived by human. With the progression of human’s ingenuities, the wisdom has evolved toward a consumptive behavior. Exploitation by humans results in an imbalanced condition of nature system that leads to a wide-range of consequence, such as climate change, which is positioned as the most crucial present day and future problem (Loeper, 2009). The issue of global climate change raised over the past three decades has remained as public debates. Despite of the causes, which are considered to be the amalgamation of manmade intervention and the action of natural process itself, statistical data validate that temperature distribution and weather cycles in the wide range system has changed and increased ever since a longer period, which creates a growing interaction of dryness and intense rain (Schellnhuber, 2009; Loeper, 2009). The expansion of increasing thermal as well causes the level of sea water to rise as it defrosts the land-based ice to melt. The impact of climate change gives influences at multiple scales and the most damaging effect is found to happen at the lowest scale of a specific region. At the regional or local scale, the rising of global temperature affects the frequency, intensity, and type of extreme weather events (Meeh et al, 2007; UNFCC, 2008). It indicates that, several hazards, such as cyclones (including hurricanes and typhoons), floods, droughts, radical precipitation events, could happen more frequent, even with a small increase of heat (UNFCC, 2008). The climate change effects may differ based on the geographical setting, timescale, impact duration, and the object of disaster. As the weather-related hazards from the climate change is strongly related with the hydrological cycles, if we relate this with the habit of urbanization, the populations in many coastal areas around the world, to a greater or lesser extent, are the most vulnerable ones to the dangers (Klein et al. 2003).

Records of sea level rise over the years as one of the climate change symptoms (Source: UNEP, 2009, redrawn by authors)

Coastal locations will suffer more from more specific weather related hazards such as erosion, storm and wind damage, flooding from the sea, and the increasing intrusion of salt to the surface water (Klein et al. 2003). Ironically, nearly seventy percent of the world’s population lives in heavily inhabited cities located in coastal areas (UNFCC, 2008). In addition, in 2015, twenty of the thirty three projected megacities will be situated within the zone of the sea water rising risk (Klein et al. 2003).

natural forces

human made

Being one of the world’s biggest coastal megacities, the City of New Orleans has always been faced the risk of being submerged given that it is located in a delta area as a low-lying land urbanism. Furthermore, since the city is situated in one of the hurricanes trajectories crossing over it from the Gulf of Mexico towards the interior of country, it has always suffered from their devastating effects. The most recent impact came from hurricane Katrina under which the levee system failed to resist the pressure from rising water as an after–effect. Two-third of the city was submerged, dreadfully causing a lot of live loss. Regardless the post disaster recovery attempts that New Orleans has been carrying out, there is a certainty that the disaster will happen. Thus, the global climate change should activate another paradigm shift in urbanism that will challenge all areas of life and demands many interdisciplinary and comprehensive efforts to keep the most unlikely anticipated consequences at an endurable scale (Loeper, 2009).

Hazard typologies in different geographical level from human activities and natural causalities. (Source: UNEP/Grid Europe, 2004; redrawn by authors)

Direct exposure to weather related hazards in coastal cities (Source: Google images, lastly consulted in May, 2010)



2.1. Context The city of New Orleans is located in the lower part of Mississippi River before the river slows down in the delta area and ends in the Gulf of Mexico (See fig. 4). The former area of the city was a small part of the adjacent levee strips of Mississippi River created naturally from the mud deposits after a long evolution of flowing and shifting. Its strategic location attracted the European expeditors to establish small river colony in 1700, which drew more inhabitants to settle. The old quarter expanded not only along the Mississippi River, but also toward the inland marshy area of the city. New Orleans is now highly urbanized as the largest delta city and metropolitan area in Louisiana State. New Orleans envelopes 907 sqkm area which is distributed almost equally as water and land area. As the city is crossed over by Mississippi River, it benefits very much as the busiest port in Louisiana which is situated in the east part of the city. After the artificial levees construction, the port area was merged with the industrial zones for oil crude refinery, petrochemical, natural resources industries, which is another service that New Orleans provides. (Left, above) Position of New Orleans as the edge city of the state and the water (Source: Dutch Dialogues, 2010)

As a consequence of maritime voyages and the Caribbean migration history, the population composition was 67.25% African American, 28.05% America, and 4.7% remaining distributed among Asian, Hispanic, and other ethnic groups) (Daly) shared the space to inhabit the city. This demographic makeup has been a sustaining issue of restricted social equality within the city for its racial and class differences. However, due to the domination certain ethnics, the city is renowned as the lively center of culture, music, and arts happenings. As a [below] zero level urbanism to be located at or just above the sea level, the terrain profile of New Orleans is comparable as a basin as the land is inclining down from the river banks surrounded by major water bodies (Lake Pontchartrain in the north, Lake Borgne in the east, and Lake Bayou in the south west) and Mississippi River. Therefore, New Orleans must have realized its position to be both advantaged and dangerously gambled with the presence of abundant water.


Source: (above) Google image (right) EDAW consultant

Water: blessings and curse

Ever since its founding New Orleansmuch like any other coastal city- has had a love hate relationship with water. The sheer abundance of water features surrounding and upholding it can be considered its blessing given that its economy fundamentally rested on their existence as they rendered its ease of accessibility directly leading to its development as a principal port city.

In a time before railways, good highways, and long before air travel, its port was handling huge quantities of commodities for export from the interior and imported goods from other countries, which were warehoused and then transferred in New Orleans to smaller vessels and distributed the length and breadth of the vast Mississippi River watershed. On top of this it also played a major role during the Atlantic slave trade era. Yet this abundance of water can also be considered a curse in that it has always threatened-at times also succeeded- to obliterate it partially or entirely. New Orleans has always suffered from water related catastrophes stemming from its location along a well-worn pathway that tropical storms travel from the Atlantic to the nation’s interior. Furthermore, the city is located at the very outlet of the majestic Mississippi river which has a seasonally varying flow intensity resulting in recurrent floods. From this perspective, the city has earned a bad reputation of being a ‘misguided’ urban project, a fool’s errand, a disaster waiting to happen (Kelman, 2005 online publication). Geographers refer to this as the difference between a city’s “situations”—the advantages its location offers relative to other cities—and its “site”—the actual real estate it occupies. In light of which New Orleans can be considered as having a near-perfect situation and an almost unimaginably bad site. It is to secure the advantages of this ideal ‘situation’ that the inhabitants have worked so hard to overcome the hazards of the ‘site’.

The practices of overcoming these threats have over time altered the relation the city had with water and have eventually led to the current state where water is alienated and seen more as an enemy that an ally. New Orleans turned to technology to impose order on its surroundings. Over the course of its development the city had built a network of enormous pumps (several of which have failed in the face of Katrina) and hundreds of miles of canals. Their accomplishments, however incomplete, have allowed the city to expand off the relatively high ground near the Mississippi (where the first French settlers set up camp in 1718) and to spread out into what used to be a huge cypress swamp along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The early settlers had built artificial levees which in the beginning were rudimentary efforts to enlarge the natural riverbanks. But for more than two centuries, engineers steadily reinforced them, and today the levees have grown so high that they are the highest point in the city’s sky line and have literally walled it off from the surrounding waters. This was all part of the effort to realize the promise of the city’s situation while keeping at bay the forces that challenge its site. In due course New Orleans has become utterly dependent on these engineered landscapes for its survival given that much of the city lies well below sea level. In essence, New Orleans has transformed itself into a shallow bowl surrounded by a ridge of levees, which supposedly keeps the water from the Mississippi and from Lake Pontchartrain out. In this regard the city had almost completely forgotten the risk of its setting. With the levees standing between the city and the water, it was inevitable that the inhabitants grew more and more oblivious to the fact that they are surrounded by such a vast expanse of water. Only when this system fails–as it does from time to time- are the New Orleanians forced to remember that they are trapped in a cage of their own construction.

This system, containing the city’s highest levees, averaging 25 feet above sea level in height, was not involved in the Hurricane Katrina disaster. New Orleans is also protected from Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne, which are located almost side-by-side on the north side of it, by an interconnected series of levees that extends along the lakes. These levees are considerably smaller than the ones that protect New Orleans from flooding of the Mississippi. They range from 13.5 to 18 feet above sea level in height. Another series of somewhat lower levees provides protection to Eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish, which are located to the north and east of New Orleans, from Lake Pontchartrain on the north and from Lake Borgne and the Gulf on the west. Parts of the parish are located between the two lakes.

2.2. a. Resistive measures

Essentially there are three main agents which pose flood risks to New Orleans, viz, The Mississippi River to the south, Lake Pontchartrain to the north and Lake Borgne and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. There is a risk of flooding from the Mississippi River is basically caused by flood waters coming down the Mississippi River from rainfall occurring hundreds of miles to the north. The primary line of defense against river flooding is an extensive system of levees and dikes that extends along the length of the river.

City growth and water system (above) (Left, up, clockwise rotation: main levees, main levees, drainage, bayou, canals. Source: NOLA, redrawn by authors)

As was mentioned previously the largest portion of New Orleans lays below sea level and given that it is covered by highly organic and unconsolidated swamp or marsh deposits its rapidly sinking, consequently rainwater that flows into the city must be removed not by natural drainage, but with huge pumps that force the water to move along three man-made canals, called “outfall canals,� to Lake Pontchartrain. The canals are lined with concrete walls that prevent the water from spilling into the city. Water flowing through the canals is nearly as high as the rooftops of some houses adjoining the canals. All of the levees were built by the Corps of Engineers and are maintained by various local levee districts. In addition to the drainage canals, the Corps of Engineers also constructed two very large canals to permit ocean-going vessels to move from the Mississippi River through the city to Lake Pontchartrain or the Gulf of Mexico to the south of Lake Borgne.

The Industrial Canal slices north/ south across the city between the river and the lake at the point where they are closest to each other. The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO) canal bisects the Industrial Canal and travels east/west to the Intracoastal Canal near Lake Bourne. The shipping canal levees consist of concrete floodwalls and earthen levees. Even though this synthetic system of protection against the fairly constant flooding risk had in a way managed to give the city a false sense of security and sustained it for so long, it could not withstand the mighty hand of the hurricane Katrina which struck the gulf coast on August 29, 2005. The impact of this hurricane on the traditional flood control system was so severe that no less than 50 breaches were witnessed and 80% of the city was submerged for days on end.

2.2. b. Hurricane Katarina: A Wake up Call

Source: (left) Google image (right) Google image, and NOAA, 2006, redrawn by authors

On August 29, 2005, the annual Gulf Coast hurricane event turned into a massive urban disaster and human tragedy. Hurricane Katrina’s Category 3 winds and subsequent tidal surge overwhelmed the region’s patchwork of protective levees. In two days, 80 percent of the city was under water. Floodwater crushed water and sewer lines and inundated pump, fire, police and public health stations. Oil and toxic chemicals, mixed with fecal material, turned the water into a toxic brew that seeped into building walls and lingered in the yards of homes.

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Ethel Betsy Camille Carmen Frederic Elena Andrew Katrina Rita

Meanwhile, 75 percent of the city’s celebrated oak and magnolia tree canopy, which protected residents from summer heat and eased storm-water run-off for over a century, was wiped out by wind and saltwater intrusion. Most of the region’s hospitals and emerging biotechnology centers were isolated by floodwater without access to power or dry cooling air, allowing heat and humidity to generate mold and bacterial growth throughout the buildings. Today, most remain empty, uninhabitable, requiring complete demolition. The disaster further exposed clumsy leadership at all levels of government, a balkanized and inept emergency preparedness organization, and an extensive map of disenfranchised citizens living on the edge of or outside access to basic city services. These were just some of the preconditions that created a dominolike cascade of breaches and failures and magnified a comparatively routine Category 3 hurricane into a Category 5 catastrophe. The net result was that governance crumpled, the social safety net dissolved, critical municipal systems stopped working and nearly 1500 people died needlessly . The devastation of New Orleans was so complete that it was as if the horizontal line of the disaster recovery chart simply vanished and the city was left without basic civil gravity. This clearly shows that the damage which New Orleans suffered was not directly from the wind surge of the hurricane but rather as a result the breaches in most of the city’s levees, including the 17th Street Canal levee, the Industrial Canal levee, and the London Avenue Canal floodwall. Consequently New Orleans was flooded, with some parts under 15 feet (4.5 m) of water. The famous French Quarter dodged the massive flooding experienced in other levee areas.

Ninety percent of the residents of southeast Louisiana were evacuated despite of which, many remained (mainly the elderly and poor). The Louisiana Superdome was used for those who remained in the city. The city flooded due to the failure of the federally built levee system. Many who remained in their homes had to swim for their lives, wade through deep water, or remain trapped in their attics or on their rooftops. The disaster had major implications for a large segment of the population, economy, and politics of the entire United States. It has prompted a Congressional review of the Corps of Engineers and the failure of portions of the federally built flood protection system which experts agree should have protected the city’s inhabitants from Katrina’s surge. As was mentioned above hurricanes are one of the three principal agents that pose a natural hazard risk to the city and have been pounding on it ever since its emergence.

However the extent of the damage which resulted from hurricane Katrina was a clear indication of the effect of global warming on the intensity of the storm surges of coastal typhoons and hurricanes and in a manner of speaking acted as a wakeup call to the residents of the city in particular and the global community at large. In this way climate change can be recognized as a potential trend breaker, given that hydrological variables and existing statistical distributions of flood probabilities are being severely affected on a global level. The present challenge seems to be that we must recognize that the future is inherently uncertain and that science will not necessarily reduce uncertainty. In this sense, climate change provides new incentives for the need to plan ahead and to anticipate extreme events. Hence strategies which address these challenges should in a way recognize that there is no best solution, but embracing future scenarios fitting a range of possibilities and distributions so that the events will not come as a surprise. “Disasters will happen. To lessen their impacts in the future, we need to reduce our social vulnerability and increase disaster resilience with improvements in the social conditions and living standards in our cities. We need to build (and rebuild) damaged housing and infrastructure in harmony with nature and design cities to be resilient to environmental threats even if it means smaller, more liveable places, and fewer profits for land and urban developers and a smaller tax base for the city (Cutter, 2006). “ Images source: (above) Dutch Dialogues II (left) Google image

3 Traces of a Paradigm Shift

Source: Google image

Thoughts of a resilient New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina’s impact serves as a potent symbol of the havoc caused by longstanding neglect of the public realm in New Orleans and elsewhere (Connery 2008). It vividly illustrates the risks and complexity we face to rebuild infrastructure systems in ways that will address past shortcomings but also meet new challenges posed by the disruptive shifts in economic, demographic, and environmental conditions underway globally. In the grim aftermath of the storm, the city was faced with a dilemma in that urgent rebuilding demands had to compete with long-overdue infrastructure reconstruction. In either case the required remedies and recipes will not be found in the default codes of traditional urban renewal and reconstruction (especially in this era where we have come to realize that nothing is for certain and where global issues of climate change are threatening our very existence). there is a need to study the insights revealed by Katrina and fundamentally rethink the role of urbanism and begin to create new models for more robust, resilient and sustainable systems and cities. In this regard the event has presented us with an opportunity to reconsider our ways, and that is exactly what happened in its wake. Professionals from various fields have been reflecting on this issue and many concepts have been put forward and an equally large number of schemes have been proposed. Resilience has gained prominence as a topic in the field of disaster research worldwide, supplanting the concept of disaster resistance which, as was mentioned previously, emphasizes the importance of pre-disaster mitigation measures that enhance the performance of structures, infrastructure elements, and institutions in reducing losses from a disaster, while, on the other hand it reflects a concern for improving the capacity of these physical and human systems to respond to and recover from such extreme events. Local resiliency with regard to disasters means that a locale is able to withstand an extreme natural event without suffering devastating losses, damage, diminished productivity, or quality of life and without a large amount of assistance from outside the community. (Mileti 1999, pp.32-33) It can also be described as The ability of social units (organizations, communities) to mitigate hazards, contain the effects of disasters when they occur, and carry out recovery activities in ways that minimize social disruption and mitigate the effects of future disaster. (Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research team: MCEER)

Communities are the social and institutional components of the city. They include the formal and informal, stable and ad hoc human associations that operate in an urban area: neighborhoods, agencies, organizations, enterprises, task forces, and the like. In sum, the communities act as the brain of the city, directing its activities, responding to its needs, and learning from its experience. During a disaster, the communities must be able to survive and function under extreme and unique conditions. If they break down, decision making falters and response drags. A city without resilient communities will be extremely vulnerable to disasters (Godschalk, 2002).

According to Dr. David R. Godschalk, a resilient city is a sustainable network of physical systems and communities (Godschalk, 2002). Physical systems are the constructed and natural environmental components of the city. They include its roads, buildings, infrastructure, communications facilities, soils, topography, geology, and the like. In sum, the physical systems act as the body of the city, its bones, arteries, and muscles. During a disaster, these physical systems must be able to survive and function under extreme stresses. If enough of them suffer breakdowns that cannot be repaired, losses escalate and recovery slows. A city without resilient physical systems will be extremely vulnerable to disasters.

Lawrence J. Vale and Thomas Campanella in their book the resilient city :how modern cities recover from disaster, refer to urban resilience as being a physical capacity to bounce back from a significant obstacle much like a rubber ball dropped on the pavement. In this regard resilient cities should be constructed to be strong and flexible, rather than brittle and fragile. Their lifeline systems of roads, utilities, and other support facilities are designed to continue functioning in the face all kinds of disasters natural and manmade alike. Their new development is guided away from known high hazard areas, and their vulnerable existing development is relocated to safe areas. Their buildings are constructed or retrofitted to meet code standards based on hazard threats. Their natural environmental protective systems are conserved to maintain valuable hazard mitigation functions. Finally, their governmental, non-governmental, and private sector organizations possess accurate information about hazard vulnerability and disaster resources, are linked with effective communication networks, and are experienced in working together. By positing resilience as a goal, Dr. Godschalk states that we create a model against which decisions and actions can be measured, and plans and policies evaluated. We also create an image that decisionmakers and the public can understand and act to achieve. The resulting resilient city both plans ahead and acts spontaneously. It has strong central governance, as well as vital private sector and non-governmental institutions. It is aware of the hazards it faces, but not afraid to take risks. It avoids simple command and control leadership, preferring to develop networks of leadership and initiative. It sets goals and objectives, but is prepared to adapt these in light of new information and learning. It recognizes that the quest for resiliency is an ongoing long-term effort.

More concretely the concept of (re) building New Orleans as a resilient city was eloquently narrated by Jason Henderson, Assistant Professor of Geography at San Francisco State University, and a New Orleans native, on his online publication; where he argues that, most proposals for rebuilding New Orleans are based on the construction of new infrastructure, renovation of the old, making them more resistant, and resizing against other hurricanes such as Katrina. The incorporation of new technologies comes into play in the form of improved pumps and better materials. History shows that New Orleans suffers hurricanes regularly. Furthermore, by its geographical `bowl´ configuration, levees and other infrastructure are essential and only human intervention could turn swamp land into a habitable place. It seems logical to reconsider the system of protection-flood prevention where everything depends on the status and configuration of infrastructure. Some geographers, demographers and other have raised their ideas under the question “why rebuild New Orleans as it was?

Thoughts On Rebuilding (And Not Rebuilding) New Orleans

“Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Now we are hearing the mantra of “rebuild all” with bigger levees and improved pumps. They should reflect on why this disaster happened, and why “rebuilding all” is a very bad idea. That means reflecting on public policies towards coastal erosion, the taming of the Mississippi River, sprawl, and sealevel rise due to global warming. Katrina was not an act of God, nor a natural disaster -- this was a public policy disaster”. In terms of urban design, Jason Henderson thinks that the sprawl of New Orleans, similar to most of sprawlscapes in every American city, is a development system that promoted the catastrophe. “From a design perspective, the sprawl that is submerged was auto dependent, hostile to pedestrians, low density, single detached homes, segregated land uses, segregated incomes and races, full of intrusive billboards, massive expanses of pavement -- the bland generic sprawlscape that engulfs almost every American city. This is the face of sprawl in New Orleans today -- a toxic cesspool”.

After analyzing the previous characteristics of New Orleans, and the failures that were produced in terms of avoiding the Katrina hurricane, Jason Henderson proposes a possible solution for the city’s reconstruction, based on free the devastated space in order to get space for water and dandify safety areas. His first priority is get space for water, recovering the natural landscape in a methodical way. In consequence, people have to be moved to safety areas in the natural levees, but there is not enough space, so it is also necessary to move people to other cities around New Orleans, connected by highways and creating new economic centers and developments. “How to Rebuild?What should not be rebuilt is the sprawl surrounding New Orleans. (…)The removal of the sprawl should be done in a methodical and coordinated manner, and with ecological restoration as first priority. Retreat, replenish, regenerate - and reconstruct the “old” New Orleans.“The city should be reconstructed south of the natural levee called Metairie-Esplanade-Chef Ridge. Greater New Orleans reconstructed would straddle the Mississippi River on the high natural levee (…)The balance of the New Orleans population (approximately 500-600,000) would relocate to Baton Rouge, Hammond, and Lafayette, along existing highway and rail routes (…) Baton Rouge would become the regional economic hub, and experience major densification without expanding its physical footprint. (…)The infill strategy for Baton Rouge would be repeated in Lafayette in Hammond, albeit at a smaller scale. A regional government should be established in Southeast Louisiana” Physical reconstruction of the territory is not the only important thing. Social and economic reconstruction is a long and complicated process that must be also taken into account. Jason Henderson gives some clues about the future economy and funding. “Economy.The future New Orleans economy would center on the port, tourism, arts, university, seafood processing, light manufacturing, and shipbuilding. Construction and craftwork will be very important in the decade after this storm. The port would remain critical to the nation. The city would implement a new housing policy that requires inclusionary zoning, so that people of different incomes can return to the city. New Orleans would have a systematic public transport network”.

Interpretation of the ideas of Jason Henderson

“Funding.This disaster was largely caused by public policy. These policies included using Louisiana as a major refining center for domestic and imported oil, requiring acce ss for ships and pipelines. These policies centered on a national urban policy of promoting and subsidizing low-density, automobile oriented sprawl such as that built in the backswamps surrounding New Orleans. For this reason the funding for the rebuilding of New Orleans, including densification of Baton Rouge, Hammond, and Lafayette, should be financed by a nation-wide 50-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline”.

William R. Morrish in his aricle After the Storm: Rebuilding Cities on a Reflexive Urban Landscape, also elaborates on the need for a radically different thinking process and societal baseline from which to (re) build New Orleans as a resilient city through its infrastructure. He is of the opinion that, reflexive modernization is less concerned with expanding the resource base, but rather with re-evaluating and reorganizing the resources already is use. The word “reflexive” for him implies three concepts which could help in reshaping the traditional view of infrastructure. These include: 1. Infrastructure as a cultural repository of memories and future hopes; Infrastructure is a mirror that reflects our civic values, cultural identity and collective hopes for a better future. Transportation, water, power, sewer and waste systems represent an extraordinary collection of public assets and investments. Yet, as users, we rarely grasp their crucial value to our daily lives or the collective toll of our individual demands for services. Their components are buried underground, hidden behind drab paint and chain-link fences, or relegated to the poor end of town. He believes that for effectively rebuilding our aging infrastructure; we must first revive public awareness of its central role in our collective existence. Its functional and aesthetic values determine the vitality of the urban landscape that adjoins all of our cherished homes, schools, businesses and institutions. Natural systems and utility networks need to become integral and interdependent parts of that urban landscape.

He goes on by saying that extraordinary outpouring of public generosity (monetary or otherwise) should be channeled toward creating an equitable and reflexive infrastructural foundation, which combines sustainable regeneration, equitable operation, and resilient practice. Reflexive infrastructure systems cannot be created through technological innovation alone; they require a fully engaged citizenry with a strong sense of shared purpose. “Public agencies or private companies cannot engineer the renewal of damaged systems; they need supportive citizens and customers. Active citizen participation is fundamental to daily operation of sustainable and resilient infrastructure.” (Morrish, 2008) Developing reflexive infrastructure begins with collecting a wide range set of data, translating that data into visual material that is accessible to the community so they can respond—either through individual efforts or as collective activities to support sustainable operations. The disaster has radically changed the local information scene. City officials, neighborhood organizations, academic institutions and citizens now have direct access to robust body of information (this was not the case prior to Katrina). This has empowered New Orleans’ non-governmental organizations with information and mapping capabilities to address precondition issues such as toxic soils and housing inequity and also to monitor recovery and rebuilding efforts.

2. Infrastructure as interdependent services and support systems that form the threads of the local safety net New Orleans’ future economic viability and security still needs a public works network that is fully legible and accountable to all citizens who depend on the safety net of their services. Without this assurance, many people feel that they cannot take the risk to stay and build a life in New Orleans. Every infrastructure investment should reinforce and vividly highlight the physical and cultural connections all of the city’s neighborhoods and residents and the surrounding Delta wetlands whose natural resources sustain them all. The traditional approach to infrastructure vulnerability and recovery is to harden defenses and focus recovery primarily on repair of big public works. For Morrish, the term “resilience” demands the development of a distributed infrastructure that enables citizens to operate more independently, sustain themselves during service disruptions and assist the recharge of the larger systems upon return to normal conditions. This way, citizens become the first responders and more active and effective agents in recovery and the revival of the local economy.

“In a volatile world of changing climate and the potential for cascading infrastructure failures, the investment in sustainable distributed infrastructure will have a direct and substantial return for communities and businesses by enabling them to rebound more quickly after disasters and stay competitive in the global marketplace” (Morrish, 2008) 3. Infrastructure as a set of reciprocal transactions between civic authorities that promote the sustenance and equitable distribution of the local common wealth. In a highly connected and global society, the words “redundancy and resilience” have become key concepts in infrastructure design as a means to reduce system vulnerabilities and risks of failure. Our daily existence and protection from extreme events such as hurricanes or major power outages depend on the ability to “switch over” to back-up or parallel networks when the main systems fail. “To convert our cities into healthier, safer and more productive and livable places, we need to see infrastructure as a second nature, an artificial urban landscape evolving with natural processes to serve the community and underscore their collective existence.” (JB Jackson 1986, Cronon 1992) Infrastructure that derives its form, function and operation from a synthesis of natural and cultural processes represents a more sustainable set of systems and services with the potential of backup resources to absorb the impact of natural or human-made disasters.

Here he stresses that natural systems and ecological processes are both “structural” components of sustainable infrastructure. “Whether they are constructed from concrete and steel or consist of roots, leaves and mudflats, they can be organized to reinforce each other and provide the capacity to flex with constant environmental changes”, (Morrish, 2008). The products from this type of design development can be tailored not only to meet the specific local needs and site conditions but also to educate users on how to maintain and utilize their system through its entire life cycle. After construction project plans become ongoing user manual as that are continually updated as conditions change or new information becomes available. In conclusion he refers to reflexive infrastructure as an agent which shapes and supports a city’s basic everyday “second nature”—the economic and ecological flows that nurture the local place and connect the locale into the global environment. (Cronon,1992). The systems are environmentally sustainable, equitability networked, and resilient or accommodating to cultural and ecological succession, because they provide the public realm or spaces of community voice. It is sets the terms of basic civil security and citizen inclusion.



1. Social Resilience Projects 2. Technical measure in New Orleans urban design proposals Following the actual renovation Where is the Water? [Dutch Dialogues] Sea level: Balancing New Orleans

Social Resiliency In the past theoretical concepts and studies in the frame of mitigation research have primarily focused on approaches addressing risk and vulnerability of people and socialecological systems. Only lately the conceptualization was broadened towards a positive and prospective approach – resilience. This approach focuses on analyzing the ability of people and social-ecological systems to positively adjust to change, risk and adversity. The resilience concept looks into both reactive capabilities of people to cope with, recover from and adjust to various risk and adversities and their proactive capacity to create options and anticipate responses to health risks and adversities.

In order to build up the frame work for this argument we launch with rendering the key principles of social resiliency through cross referencing to the scholars. Social Resiliency in general Refers to the ability of a nation-state to preserve the cohesion of its society when it is confronted by external and internal stresses . But if we narrow down our scope to environmental change issue the key concept in resilience would be the ability of human societies to learn from hazard events and use their accumulated social memory to better contend with future catastrophes. (Craig E. Colten Æ Amy R. Sumpter ,2008) Needless to say ,the issue of Social resiliency directly addresses the social infrastructure and considers the unity and cohesion of that as a key principle for resiliency. Colten defines Social cohesion as solidarity or ability to mobilize social assets for the benefit of all.(Colten2005).Since human activities dominate social-ecological system, The cohesion and eventually the resilience of these systems is mainly a function of ‘Social infrastructure’ which has divided into two dimensions. 1. The actions (intentional or unintentional) of individuals and groups affect the system 2. Their collective capacity to manage resilience, intentionally, affects whether they prevent the system crossing into an undesirable system regime, or succeed in moving into a desirable one. On the opposite side of resiliency On the opposite side of resiliency lies the notion of vulnerability .In resilience community (Resilience Alliance) vulnerability arises from the loss of resilience. Determining levels of resilience is less a specific methodology, although cyclical behaviour of a system and the positive and negative feedbacks are common elements. While resilience emphasizes the system, vulnerability often looks at individual actors and vulnerable populations. Threfore ,Social vulnerability is the exposure of groups of people or individuals to stress as a result of the impacts of environmental change. Stress, in the social sense, encompasses Disruption to social infrastructure (groups’ or individuals’) livelihoods and forced adaptation to the changing physical environment.

The key to increasing social resilience is to reduce its overall vulnerability—the potential for harm and social disruption from multi-hazard threats—before hazard events occur. Social resilience has economic, spatial and social dimensions and hence its observation and appraisal require interdisciplinary understanding and analysis at various scales. Reasons for vulnerability can be “rooted” in society and the history and may not be apparent in everyday life (wisner,et al..,2004)

Policies Institutions Processes Vulnerable


low level of assets Memory limited livelihood strategies insecure living environment lack of voice in decisionmaking lack of social protection

drought flood landslide earthquake/volcano pest/disease illness

Increased risks of disaster eg. extreme hardship destitution hunger early death

Long term trends environmental degradation population change urbanisation economic/policy change

Vulnerability Framework

Diagram :The social volnerability (Source

Figure 1

1. Vulnerable people: what makes people vulnerable? There is a close connection between poverty and vulnerability but they are not identical concepts. Vulnerable people live in circumstances where they are liable to, or live in fear of, a sudden, traumatic loss of their means of livelihoods and of their social or physical environment that they are powerless to prevent. This loss may be caused by a range of hazards including natural disasters or civil conflicts which affect

many, or shocks such as sickness or injury

Memory and social resiliency Hazard investigators have not ignored the long-term human role. inquiry into the human adjustments to floods and Haas et al. (1977) examination of recovery draw on historical records of human responses to hazard events. The socialconstruction of disaster perspective considers long-term processes and acknowledges that human changes to the landscape contribute to calamities (Mileti 1999). Consequences of hazards events are not experienced equally by all and a variety of social factors contribute to both vulnerability and resiliency (Cutter et al. 2000; Wisner et al. 2004; Pelling 2003;Enfield 2004a, b). Humans and their organizations and networks play a prominent role in the outcome of hazard events and community resiliency. The most conspicuous difference between nonhuman and coupled human–environment systems is the ability of humans to learn from extreme events and institute individual and institutional adjustments (Colten2005). Learning and adapting deliberate strategies occur through social organizations and processes and unfold over a period of time.Memory in social resilience discourse argues that more substantive and deliberate accounting of both past events and the human dimension in them must be factored into effective hazards research for greater community resilience(colten2008). A key concept in resilience studies is that human societies can learn from hazard events and use their accumulated social memory to better contend with future catastrophes. Indeed, flood protection structures have transformed regularevents (such as annual floods) into rare events that few are prepared to contend with. Not only do they create a false sense of security (White 1945), but also they allow social awareness of extreme and unsafe situations to fade. Social memory is a critical element of human vulnerability that hazard researchers deem important in reconstructing past adjustments to climate change, but all too often neglect it in contemporary contexts. For instance in New Orleans case it discusses that how preparations for Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to gauged the loss of social memory and the corresponding increase in Vulnerability by engineering resiliency out of hazards plans. Therefore Memory can assist a system to provide a social awareness against the disaster and lead to social resiliency.

Memory of the past (Before Katrina)

“It may be astonishing that American citizens should have had to remind their fellow Americans of this, but let us not pretend we do not know the reason. They were black, and for all that poor blacks have experienced and endured in this country, they had good reason to be surprised that they were treated not as citizens but as garbage� (Michael Ignatieff ,New York Times Magazine 2005)

Marginalization Since the beginning of the city’s history, poor and working class black New Orleanians have been forced to live in ecologically and economically marginal land. In these areas, property values remained low, schools were segregated and then abandoned by the majority of white citizens, and job opportunities remained limited. In the last decades of the 20th century, Louisiana had the highest per capita incarceration rate in the nation and was continually listed among the states with the highest rankings in measurements of poverty, unemployment, crime, and diabetes. It also ranks among the lowest in literacy, insurance coverage, and public funding of the arts and education. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can be viewed as part of a much larger pattern of structural violence affecting lower income residents of the majority black city, a disaster of longue duree. It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state...? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations...will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in theextermination of the one or the other race. - Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state...? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations...will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in theextermination of the one or the other race. - Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

2. U.S.A top down Construction policies The contemporary city arguably bears the markings of prototypical U.S. urban policy as well (Eckstein 2006). Urban renewal and slum clearance, discriminatory homeownership programs and segregated public housing, suburbanization and gentrification, along with the rise of gated communities,have all fractured, bulldozed, or reconfigured elements of the 19th-century city that had more in common with the Caribbean archipelago than the U.S. South (Eckstein and Throgmorton; Gottdiener 1985). After the storm, these histories of restructuring remain strangely absent in the rebuilding discussions hosted by city and state planning commissions. Nonetheless, they are an important part of the collective memory and discourse of displaced residents, who recall how these top-down policies disproportionately impact black and low-income communities. Public skepticism over current debates about reducing the urban footprint, reintroducing wetlands into the city in the form of new urban parks, or building mixedincome housing in low-income neighborhoods is informed by a mindfulness of long histories of urban renewal and interstate highway and park construction, which caused their own form of devastation in mostly black residential neighborhoods.

Memory of the present(During and After Katrina) Technical Failure Previously, we already cited the technical failure of the Government in building the flood resistant levee structure. The main objective is in this part is to quickly trace the retention or abandonment of elements of hurricane planning resiliency in New Orleans and vicinity between two landmark hurricanes. What becomes obvious is that despite a massive series of programs to reduce hurricane impacts after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, resilient strategies fell by the wayside and authorities placed their trust in a rigid and perpetually unfinished levee system that only offered a fixed degree of safety. This occurred partly due to inadequate preservation and appreciation of past events and a failure to incorporate historical understanding into hazards management plans.

Levee protection and flooded area in New Orleans, 1965. Cartography by Clifford Duplechin

According to Hurricane Betsy 1965 statistics, about 90 percent of the threatened population evacuated successfully and found shelter locally, which kept the death toll low (only 81). Quickly after Betsy Huuricane, new technical designs for the new Levees prepared. It included massive levees that would replace the modest tidal barriers that protected eastern New Orleans and the downstream parishes. Designed to guard against a hurricane with 100 mph winds and a forward speed of 11 knots, it sought to employ a structural levee system that followed the successful model employed against Mississippi River floods. The levee designs provided protection against a storm with a 200-year return frequency. (Craig E. Colten Æ Amy R. Sumpter,2008) The thrust that people put on the levees in one hand and the resistance of black communities on the other hand, dramatically increased the death number. Although from 1965 to 2000 New Orleans population decreased from 627,000 to 480.000 but number roughly 80 percent of the people evacuated while at least 1,836 lost their lives. The Evacuation process itself put an unforgetable trace in the memory of New orleans Poeple .

Evacuation Scandal

Dwayne, 12, Tasha and Diamond Herbert, 4,9 wait under an umbrella for evacuation. (Source:MICHAEL DeMOCKER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE)

The evacuation of people before Katrina mirrored the worst aspect of the american Racism and is considered as the worst scandal of the U.S.As cited before nearly 80 percent of New Orleans residents evacuated the city before the hurricane. But the evacuation system was dramaticly racial. For instance the ninth ward which mainly accommodates black African and some other low income ethnicities As people were airlifted from rooftops and dropped off on the ramps and elevated sections of the interstate by neighbors who had “commandeered” boats, a larger public discussion developed in the newspapers and on television about the poverty that the storm exposed and how it was entangled with race. No longer was the discussion about what went so wrong with New Orleans levees and the rescue operation that followed after they failed, but what went wrong before the storm. The Economist (2005) ran a cover story called “The Shaming of America” with an image of a black woman in a New Orleans T-shirt crying. Similarly, Newsweek’s headlines read, “Poverty, Race, and Katrina: Lessons of a National Shame,” and the cover featured a close-up of Faith Figueroa, a one-year-old black child from the Lower NinthWard (Atler 2005). As these stories developed,the Ninth Ward and the other poor communities became a metaphor for poverty,race, and neglect as well. The reality of a majority black city seemed to take the United States by surprise.

Shaming of America The Economist (2005) Source :Economist 2005)

Faith Figueroa, a one-year-old black child Faith Figueroa, a one-year-old childWeek from 2005 the from the Lower NinthWardblack ,News

Lower NinthWard ,News Week (2005).

Memory of the future as an Agency(Specter) Previously we tried to frame an image of what has been carved in the memory of the New orleans. Now we try to see that how future memory can be employed as an agency and substantively manifst itself in a project.In their controversial paper in Columbia university they opened a wide horizon to employ the memory as an agency to address New Orleans as a whole .By using the term Specter they address collective and individuals memory .Epistemologicallyu speaking ,Specter means : A haunting or disturbing image ,or prospect or a mental image of something unpleasant or menacing. Interestingly enough ,the term inherently has a negative meaning which makes it capable of stimulating the emotions as reminder of a tragedy and the hate reflecting what happened to the marginalized community. It also flies beyond the time scale, In between the past and the future, exile and return, life and death, presence and absence, emerges the figure of the specter, embodied by the disavowed and forgotten citizens of New Orleans whose traumatic removal haunts the contemporary urban space.

Inorder to frame a clearer picture of Specter as an agency the following diagram is envisioned. Here the specter has seen as a figure that can make the transition between both elements of the social infrastructure and the times scale. This allowed us to put one step further into the projects with the perspective of Specter as an agency.

Social Awareness Social Resiliency Social Cohesion

Individual Specter (Future) Collective


Social Volunerabilty

In privous chapter we touched upon the fact that New Orleans has received the gravest of warnings that they hover between life and death. Therefore, The image of the specter is akin to the image of the forgotten citizen, as they equally signal both presence and absence, both life and death, both a past slipping away and a future yet to be realized.

Structural Violence

Jacques Derrida has also written a movingly and presciently of this figure of the specter. “In each and every instant, we live only in and through the possibility that in another instant, perhaps the next, we might die...[Thus] each time we have survived into the next moment...we are grateful, but also anxious because this may already be a surfeit of life, and we don’t know whether it will occur again” (Derrida,2003)

“ Avram Alpert,Columbia University,2008”

Social Infrastructure

“Specters are haunting New Orleans – the specters of injustice, racism, and forgetting. New maps, new plans, new ways of thinking about New Orleans’ past must be mobilized before the future succumbs to this forgetting. “ Avram Alpert,Columbia University”

In opening New Orleans up to the memories that are haunting it, we must recall this weight of life, the pressing need to be responsible to the living, to ensure that the specters of Katrina impress upon us the need to remember the precious gift of life, in each individual house rebuilt, in each citizen, in each new memory projected onto public space as against the forgetting of disaster .

Marginalization Top-Down Policies Structural Corruption Discrimination

Technical trust

Space for the dead & living Cemetery at Industrail canal Beach You Ling Lim

Space for the living and dead is a proposal exhibited in 2005 neworleans exhibition.The Project resonates a remarkable translation of the specter into design .By laying the dead at the location where the levee broke ,The designer tries to provide a certain awareness that political advancement could not always protect the lives of mankind from the wrath of nature.The dead is the vivid testimony that man has failed ,It is the evidence that mistakes were made (Wether it is in the Levee construction or the lack of proper evacuation and rescue plan.By lmplementing the graveyard at the location where the levee broke ,he tries to provide a dialogue with the nature,Understanding that death is a natural part of life.It also resonates a toughtfull strategy to bind it with the slow process of nature providing a smooth transition between past and future. In this respect ,Howell Baum the professor in University of Maryland School wrote a narrative for they remarkable project suggests that it is important for planners working in emotionally charged situations not to try to suppress conflict, for to do so is to sabotage the work of grieving and healing which needs to be done as part of a process of change. Helping people to discuss their fears, he argues, is a way of seeing past them toward the future. What is emerging is a notion that the planning process must be able to create a transitional space between past and future, where people can imagine stepping away from past memories without feeling that they have lost their identity or betrayed the objects of memory. They must be able to imagine alternative futures.(Baum 1997).

The Dead and the living project not only address the notion off time in diffrent scales it also remarkably touches upon the social infrastructure. Inspired by the funural culture of the New orleans It tries to provie a suitable space for negotiotion which provies a coming together at a larger scale.New orleans have their special way of coming to terms with death-New orleans jazz funeral. The traditional jazz funeral starts with the somber journy from the church or funeral parlor to the grave yard.When interment ceremony is completed ,the band leads the procesion back with lively and joyos music to celebrants from the street joined in the procession,They are known as the ‘Second line’,beat Marching and dancing alongside the familly offering support and celebrating bth life and afterlifeand .By capturing the spirit of the ‘Second line ‘ In the architecture,New Orleanians can form a closure towards the disaster and start rebuilding and celebrating life he traced the flow path by spotting the churches and tried to program it in way that the second-line jazz group starts and terminates in the proposed grave yard. In this regard ,John Forester a poineer in the mediation in planning Theory in his controverisal Book “Dramas of Mediating Public Disputes” puts that emotions cannot be left at the door as one enters a negotiation:that anger, suspicion, fear, grief, and other equally powerful emotions are an unavoidable part of public policy issues. Through participation, he argues,we not only reproduce, but can reconstitute social relationships.“When we learn about the significant historical experiences of others and articulate our own in public settings, he argues, we may change ourselves as well as our strategies and sense of priorities” (Forester 1999).

Project 1 Precious Memories Floating on a Mystic Horizon HONOR AWARD Oslo, Norway Designer: Johannes M.P. Knoops, Assoc. AIA

What are the possibilities for an art of urban engagement which takes a position on issues such as democracy, power, social justice and sustainability? And what does this have to do with planning, as we know it? In order to liberate ourselves to think differently about how we might practice utopia as urban activists, I describe a new planning imagination, a dialectical imagination, and its actually existing practices. Among other things, such an imagination requires an expanded, more communicative conception of planning, and a more emotionally rich language available to its practitioners. This is not urban science fiction but true stories from various cities. What these stories suggest is that more and more of our work, if we want to work towards sustaining cities, will be bound up with organizing hope, negotiating fears, and mediating memories.

Practicing Utopia: Sustaining Cities Leonie Sanderkock

this proposal avoids the monumental. Employing no names, markers, nor obvious design elements, engineering ensures the simple vision.Though all life is fragile, our memories endure. This simple juxtaposition of trees on the horizon evokes the loss of many lives.

Christo’s Orange Gates in Central Park, 2007

Make it Right Project Make it right, Delete everything a critique One of the other projects touching upon the idea of memory is the make it right project .In 2007, frustrated by the slow pace of rebuilding in the Lower Ninth, Brad Pitt set up a foundation called Make It Right; the foundation then commissioned 13 architecture firms to design affordable, green houses. The organization plans to build 150 homes, all for returning Lower Ninth residents. So far, just 15 of them are occupied, but those 15 make a big impression. Somehow through the late night discussions, ideas emerge that link content with filmic visual vision. Heavy borrowing of images occurs from all kinds of designers, artists, architects and film itself. The visuals of the final project must attract the still and moving images of the media.The Pink Project starts with the color. Pink and orange are the most contrasting colors with the urban and natural world. Yellow has been culturally utilized to signal danger. Red’s history is too complicated. The project is a series of boxes and roofs scattered over the demolished residential landscape. The scattered symbolize the anarchy and destruction after the flood. The contrasting colors Idea has been used in many ways by diffrent architects but this time the scatterd arrangment of the houses and the contrast with the colours is used to provide a sense of social awareness and stimulating the emotion.

Pink Project 2008

Thom Sokoloski’s Encampment Essay, 2007 in NYC

Make it Right Project The figure of Brad pitt himself symbolize an emotional response that can address the individual and community in the same time.Each time a $150,000 donation is received, a roof is placed on a box that is squared to the street. At the end, a second media opportunity should emerge of an orderly future neighborhood illustrated in pink. As on December 20, 2007, funds have been donated for 42 houses.The houses themseleves has been designed by 13 diffrent architects from all over the world The architects were each asked to design a 1,200-square-foot house for about $150,000, with Make It Right to help with the financing. The houses had to be built five to eight feet off the ground, with a front porch and three bedrooms.. Each plot had a diffrent design and colour .Shortly after the critiques against it raised from all over the America.In fact,houses seem better suited to an exhibition of avant-garde architecture than to a neighborhood struggling to recover.

Tim Burton’s 1990 Edward Scissorhands Set

“A number of designers some of whom had visited the eighborhood, lamented the absence of familiar forms that would have comforted returning residents. “ Ny times 2009

Make it right project .

After obtaining conclusions about why the catastrophe occurred, which is due to its geographical position, which has high risk of flooding, the line followed by the government and by many planners and architects projects is to continue the current plan. The flood is assumed, and the risks of living in a city shaped like a bowl too. The solution is to minimize the risks building better infrastructure, with certain actions which follow the plan developed until now. The prevention of flooding and climate change problems facing is made by the use of levees, canals, pipes, pumps... This proposal aims to summarize the different ways in the design of infrastructure. But it’s a way of delaying the inevitable, that is the flood, but with the lowest possible risks. The actual renovation is based on the reinforcement of the levees with bigger pumping station and a new system of drainage, based on the previous one. Our proposal in this case is:

1.To close the most conflictive points in the lake

2.To sectorize the city

3.To evacuate the water of the sectors

4.To evacuate the people

1. Close conflictive points Many structural failures suffered in the dams were caused by pressure, because the canals received so much water from the lake. That added to their poor condition caused the great catastrophe. For these reason the first idea is to close the contact between the city by water to Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, only if they have the knowledge of rising water. If you close and do not allow the entry of water, the canal gets the function of just discharge rainwater from the storm.

2. To sectorize the city After this first proposal, currently being developed, we have a city completely sealed. To further reduce the risk of partial or complete flooding of the city, it was decided sectorize. State control of the dams, is easy because the only levees that received the pressure are the perimetral ones. By reducing the city to small areas, the floods go from being the whole entire city, to small points. This way is easier, for orderly the evacuation, and for the flood control. By mapping the topography of the city with the canal system, allows to design an effective and functional sectors. The city is divided in sectors with canals in between and every sector has levees around the all the perimeter, and is integrated the idea in the entire city. When a part of a levee breaks, how happens during the Katrina, only one sector is flooded. This also assumed that just in case of the water rising, the possibility of have any kind of problem in the walls is reduced to which are in contact with the big amount of water.

The work with images is, useful because let you know where the water would run in case of flooding and its supposed expulsion. The city is configured with the highest zones close to the river, where the first settlement appeared and the lowest parts close to the lake. The mapping continues with the flooded areas after the Katrina, because the main canals have to be fixed between sectors. And all the sectors must through the water to the huge canals. All the sectors are different and are adapted to the circumstances, and have an area close to 15 km2, with a medium density of 800 inhabitants in every sector, so live around 12,000 inhabitants in every sector.

3. Evacuate the water Every sector is connected with the sectors around it. This is very important for the drainage, because the water can be expelled from the inside of the sector to the canals and then canalized it to outside. Furthermore,the city is closed to the water so there are not problems of overflow. The sector are also connected for the evacuation of the people. And for evacuate the water of the sectors, bigger canals are used around the sectors, with levees in both sides. Every sector has a different high around 3 meters, so the idea is to use the lowest parts that are susceptible to be flooded for parks and public spaces, or with ephemeral architecture that can be used temporally. So, when a sector is flooded the water can flows to the lowest part, and there, with secondary canals inside the sector which are connected with the lowest parts, the water can pass to the canals around.

4. Evacuate the people Nowadays the idea used by the government for the evacuation of the city before the natural disasters is by elevated system of roads that are completely integrated in the city. These roads are like arteries that cross the whole city and allow the evacuation of the people This system of elevated roads is not only for emergencies also for the daily life in the city.

Where is the water?

Living with or without water: Perceptions exchanged

Three years after Katrina-Rita disaster, Dutch Dialogues, a workshop between two countries was held with the aim at sharing knowledge of similar experiences (the risk of living in subsiding deltas and low lands) and initiating design proposal to rebuild New Orleans. People with multidisciplinary background from both countries participated the four day workshop to produce design proposal which scope covers analysis, strategies, and urban design at three hierarchical scales of regional, a sub basin area in the city, and a particular neighborhood.

The structurizing elements Source: Dutch Dialogues II

levees lake pontchartrain

city park

lake borgne

gentilly ridge levees


mississippi river

claiborne ave.

The workshop highlights the most fundamental subject to begin with which ties in common between New Orleans and the Dutch cities: perception toward water. The Dutch [coastal] cities are known to be passionately nurtured with water, appreciating its exceptional condition to be lower than the sea level. The efforts are not only inside the cities themselves, by giving rooms inside the urban area for water, but as well at a regional scale such as the protective barrier [the Delta Works] in the estuary area. This water integrity in design and planning principal is poles apart from New Orleans. Since it was modestly established in highest safe ground of Mississippi River levees, New Orleans has started to disconnect its visual relationship and sensitivity toward the water, particularly after the construction of the levees as a massive ‘fortification’ for ‘not to be underwater’. In planning and designing the city, New Orleans expands its new development territory toward the inner part of the city, which is tremendously minus 6 to 8m below the sea level. Here, the safetyness is viewed to be completely detached from the danger source with one single bordering wall, which actually becomes more fragile from water intrusion from its heavy pressure when water volume is rising. Instead of avoiding the waters with clear cuts, the mindset is switched from ‘not to escape from the waters’ to ‘receiving and let them stream’ inside the city but guided with the existing elements of important soil types and topography: the low-wetland areas, sandy and alluvial soil in Gentilly area, and the high banks of Mississippi river. To structure the city, the major infrastructures are selectively reused with additional roles: the defensive Pontchartain and Mississippi levees, Gentilly ridge, and the major thoroughfare Claiborne Avenue. The landscaped and natural green areas are kept or might be added to intermingle with water (See left figure).

With these structurizing elements, the new strategies for ‘safety first’ in New Orleans are rediscovered:

Safety first

Breaking the Bathtub New Orleans needs extra awareness of an improved resistant system to be protected against hurricanes, floods, and excess water. The present protection works like a bath tub storing the water inside its hardshell but difficult to discharge which was the reason of the Katrina casualty. By creating several fractures at the levees wall and directing the water to go through the canals dividing New Orleans as small compartments. This appears to be more logical to the nature of water as source which gives an ‘open’ pressure. The existing canals will operate to distribute the water pressure and lessen the main levees to collapse. The flow of the water in the canals should be controlled and there will be locks installed in the major openings.

Estimated Fig. 4b.water 3 Water to be and in the city Source: Dutch Dialogues

Saving the ground with watering the city Water in the city will not be hastily discharge from the city, but can be stored temporarily. The storerooms will support the overloaded drainage system of the city when the amount of water is extra. Not only similar compartment systems following the fabric (roads and old canals) of the city as above is applicable for this water storage system, but also extensive opens space such as the city parks. Defining the area elastic for water and the safe grounds for settlements, the risk of flooding at least can be estimated. Source: Dutch Dialogues

Natural urban shields

Natural canopy for the city

Like a tree that gives shelter in the gentle rain, some ecological areas in New Orleans can be completely given back to nature to save the city from damage. Bayou area and Borge Lake have resided as an enormous backswamp which are potential to absorb the high tide water coming from the gulf. The outer shield system outside the city boundary can be articulated with artificial islands. As landscape platform in Pontchartrain Lake, the waves and storm effect from the gulf is expected to be lessened and hampered.

From fear to feel

The feeling of fear of the waters gives the reason to hide their presence behind the levee walls. Thus, these invisible traces of water can be reclaimed to create lively urban feel by using water as an attractor in different scales. The hidden existing canals can be reinvented to be an open air and natural drainage system. Existing urban tissue can be integrated with water and soft landscape, parks that come with water, reconfiguring native trees landscape in the city combined with wadi system, urban promenade along the levees with an open access to the water, wetland restoration in bayou areas‌. Public realms are recalled by positioning water as the medium.

Water as mediating element for a new public realm

Source images above: Dutch Dialogues

Resilience is characterized by openness and adaptation (Dover, 1996). It is as well a capacity of a system to absorb and recover from the occurrence (Timmerman, 1981). However, it is argued if the strategies are considered to be fitted in with resilience concept. It is true that the strategies are moving to an improved ability recovery. But it is not lear how far the strategies can be succeeded as resiliency if it is viewed with several perspectives. In this case, i is hard to measure resilicency as it does not profoundly deal with the real challenges in New Orleans. Moreover, the proposal is way to be a heavy physical manifestation., instead of integrating as well the other urban system to be more apparent and involved (community, instituions...) Source: Dutch Dialogues

The Dutch Dialogues proposal by improve the resistance levees system, creating new ecological areas, and restoring the city fabric but with water integration and surface permeability is considered as a novel strategies in New Orleans context. The notion of reserving space as non built environment may solve very much the misleading sprawling urbanization in New Orleans by taking over the low lands and wetlands to be replaced with habitable spaces. This is also coherent with the logic not to build anything on lowland areas as it extremely invites water to be collected. The proposal as well tries to maintain the existing city structure, which is very much appreciated while the city is recovering to get funding.

If we relate the different contexts between the two countries, it is argued that the bold strategies in the proposal can be simply ‘installed’ in New Orleans, as the city has its own urban system and complexity...

Sea Level: Balancing New Orleans

This proposal places an urban growth boundary on New Orleans which will be developed on the higher ground as was prior to 1900. Following the logic of the sprawl habit and its bowl topography, New Orleans can be viewed as a city with the capability for a much higher density on the higher lands. Instead of moving, expanding, toward the center of the bowl, the low and unsafe ground, the city can be densified on the natural height levees area which will give a security from the floods. This new densitification may as well create a mixture nighborhood which is expected to solve the city’s problem of social segregation. The proposed site for the project is the historic neighborhoods and business districts along the Mississippi that would remain. The axes and patterns of development that begin from the historic districts would build the city into hierarchies of waterways and responsive multilevel slices of city. The “hydraulic city” may now fluidly respond to its larger environment. The areas of the city below sea level would be maintained as parks, areas of water recreation and possible agricultural development through expansion of the hierarchy of waterways between river and lake with dams and terraced land.


Project “Lilypad folting city for a Climate change”

There are very few urban design solutions that address housing the inevitable tide of displaced people that could arise as oceans swell under global warming. This one is a concept for a completely self-sufficient floating city intended to provide shelter for future climate change refugees. Was designed to look like a water lily, is intended to be a zero emission city afloat in the ocean. Through a number of technologies (solar, wind, tidal, biomass), it is envisioned that the project would be able to not only produce its own energy. Each of these floating cities is designed to hold approximately around 50,000 people. A mixed terrain man-made landscape. The project isn’t even close to happening anytime soon, but there are value in future forward designs.

Project “Liquid urbanism”

This proposal aims to provide relief to the water infrastrural system by providing optimal paths of flow. Any excess water from the city will be utilized within high density housing towers for sustainable purposes. The towers will be located within high risk flood areas and be designed to provide a safe haven for endangered citizens in the event of flooding. The towers will also be designed to withstand extensive flooding by maintaining an open ground floor.

Project “Bungalette” and “Housing” In the case of housing the utopia is also present. In these two cases, the first one, the project that incorporates a spacious home that is storm-proof and self-sufficient with its unique ability to take itself off the grid for months. In the second project it is included a system which elevates each house to a safe height above sea level while providing and protecting essential utilities within the foundation structure.

La mayoría de propuestas para reconstruir Nueva Orleans se basan en la construcción de nuevas infraestructuras y la renovación de las antiguas, haciéndolas más resistentes y redimensionándolas para soportar otros huracanes como el Katrina. La Incorporación de nuevas tecnologías entra en juego en forma de improved pumps and better materials. La historia nos demuestra que es una zona que periódicamente sufre huracanes. Además, por su configuración geográfica en forma de vaso los diques son algo imprescindible y sólo con la intervención del hombre este terreno pantanoso pudo convertirse en un lugar habitable. Sin embargo, parece lógico replantearse todas estas actuaciones y pensar si la reconstrucción de lo devastado es de verdad el camino a seguir. Algunos geógrafos, demógrafos y otros estudiosos han planteado sus ideas bajo la pregunta ¿por qué reconstruir Nueva Orleans tal y como estaba? A continuación hay fragmentos sobre un artículo de Jason Henderson, Assistant Professor of Geography at San Francisco State University, donde explica sus teorías sobre la posible renovación de Nueva Orleans sobre este tema.

Project “Land-water collisions” The proposal wants to return how New Orleans was years ago. Want to re-activate the growth of the bayou ecosystem through controlled flooding. By creating infrastructure to divert and diffuse a portion of the Mississippi; the sediment suspended within the rivers waters would regenerate the bayou landscape. Over time, the renewed biomass would extend into the Lake Pontchartrain, creating an absorbent and protective buffer along the northern edge of the city. A process of sediment diffusion linked with bayou growth would create a sustainable high ground.

Project “Floating city” The floating city is one design team’s idea of what New Orleans might look like in the future. Their idea is to create low-cost houses that are buoyant, and that survive floods by welcoming the Mississippi River into the city. We’ve covered floating homes in the past, but never on the scale of an entire city. This concepts reimagines the city’s recourse to rising flood tides, welcoming in a once “unwanted guest.” Once the flood fades away, the city is redistributed in a new arrangement and “a postdiluvian landscape emerges. The city’s historic economic stratification is blurred. New soil de-posited by floodwater renews, regenerates, and reorganizes a city—by the very force threatening its existence.” It’s a beautiful vision, but there is an abundance of practical and social factors that won’t fit neatly into freely floating boxes. The implications of continuing to subject the poorest people to the ebb and flow of floodwaters are dubious at best. One crucial consideration relates to how we deal with displacement – wouldn’t a city founded upon free-floating entropy end up in chaos? A flourishing post-diluvia society is an idyllic notion, but a system of constant displacement may serve to fracture the very community it hopes to sustain. Still, it’s future-forward solutions such as this that push the hardest for progress, and they are certainly worth exploring.

“We are always endangered by something, but in this case there is no difference: the danger is continuous and in all centers of civilization- if it continues- there is nothing that can save us. In this respect it is a unique danger for humanity” (Doxiadis, 1966). We see Climate change as yet another juncture in the human endeavor, where we are confronted with the consequences of our ways of operation. We have come to realize that we cannot keep doing things as recklessly as we used to. Every step we take must be calculated and measured against various possible scenarios. It is needless to say that the way our cities are evolving is one of the major contributors to the perils we are facing and their futures should be duly contemplated. “In the wake of the manifold disasters, many of which were brought about by the best of intentions for social improvement, dare we continue to support the idea of planning as a utopian social project?” (Sandercock, 2002) The Enlightenment dream of the per¬fectibility of man became, by degrees, a belief in the perfectibility of the social order and a new conception of the state– the idea that a central purpose of the state was the improvement of all members of society. The will to plan comes out of this improving impulse, which was best expressed in 20th century self-confidence about scientific and techno-logical progress, a mentality which was unscientifically optimistic about the possibilities for the comprehensive planning of our cities. (Sandercock, 2002)

Doxiadis in his book: BETWEEN DYSTOPIA AND UTOPIA refers to the current state of our cities as dystopia –without reason, without dream. He argue that Utopias (Greek pronounced eftopia -good place): without reason, with dreams, cannot lead us anywhere. There is only one way to go –with reason and dream-which should take us out of the bad place into a good place which is not out of place – an entopia. For him striving toward entopia entails zeal to produce places that satisfy the dreamer and are accepted by the rational thinkers, places where the projection of the artist (dream) and that of the builder (reason) meet. Utopias are becoming easier to realize and this creates a great danger: man’s inability to dream of a better and higher quality of life (Doxiadis, 1966). In this regard entopia can help us in sustaining our dreams and thereby helping us in the continued construction of utopias. Not just in words and design but also in practice. Another problem Doxiadis sees in the struggle to attain our ideal cities is that once we dream them we are more concerned with their physical expression than with human institutions, as was characterized by the modernist era and its search for order, clarity and certainty. In this day and age where the future is becoming more and more difficult to fore tell contemplations toward utopian cities require a different kind of imagination from the ones that we used to employ in the past. Leonie Sandercock in his article, Practicing Utopia: Sustaining Cities (published 2002) argues that in working towards more sustaining cities, we need some new models of planning practice which expand the role of design be¬yond the realm of instrumental rational¬ity and the system world, and speak about (and develop the skills for) organ¬izing hope, negotiating fear, and medi¬ating memory, as well as developing the habits of a critical/analytical mind. This transformed language would reflect the emotional breadth and depth of the lived experience of cities: cities of desire, cities of memory, cities of play and celebration, cities of fear, cities of strug¬gle. In light of this post-Katrina New Orleans offers us a chance to rethink our ways, and as was thoroughly outlined in the preceding chapters, judging from the wide spectrum of concepts and proposals on how to (re) build the city; the need for a collective response to the global threat we are faced with, has been well pronounced. Although it is hard to know what the future holds for New Orleans, we believe that the concept of resilience resonates well with Doxiadis’ [entopia] practical dreams.


BLAKELY, Edward J., Urban Planning for Climate Change, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Lincoln, 2007 CAMPANELLA, Thomas, & VALE, Lawrence, The Resilient Cities: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995. DOXIADIS, C. A., Between Dystopia and Utopia, Trinity College Press, Connecticut, 1966. GODSCHALK, D.R., BEATLEY, T., BERKE, P., BROWER, D.J., KAISEr, E.J., Natural Hazard Mitigation: Recasting Disaster Policy and Planning. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA, 1999 KLEIN, Richard J.T., NICHOLLS, Robert J., & THOMALLA, Frank, Resilience to Natural Hazard: How Useful is this Concept? In: Environmental Hazards, (Vol. 5, p: 35–45), Southampton, 2003. LOEPER, Arne, The Tolerant Landscape Strategies For A Less Vulnerable Urban Environment, paper submitted for Fifth Urban Research Symposium 2009, Weimar, 2008. MATHUR, Anudharta & DA CUNHA, Philip, Mississippi Floods: Designing A Shifting Landscape, Yale University Press, London/ New Haven, 2001. MEYER, Han, MORRIS, Dale, & Waggonner, Dutch Dialogues: New Orleans, Netherlands, Common Challenge in Urbanized Deltas, SUN Publisher, The Netherlands, 2010. MORE, Thomas, Utopia, The Guernsey Press, Vermont, 1994. PERRY, Ronald W. & QUARANTELLI, E.L., What is A Disaster?, Xilbris Cooperation, USA, 2005. UNFCC, Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation in Developing Countries, Report published by UNFCC, Bonn, 2007.

Reviving the Cresent : Between catastrophes, strategies, and utopian expectations  

Paper Submitted for a-H02N9a-0910 Urban Design Strategies / Guidance: Paola Vigano and Michiel Dehaene / MaUSP / KU Leuven / Aryani Sari Rah...