The Unbuilding of Historic Neighbourhoods in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Journal of Urban Design, Volume 14, Issue 3 August 2009 , pages 257 – 277

Stephen Verderber

“New Orleans’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina (2005) remains slow and arduous. Eighty per cent of the city flooded in the hurricane’s aftermath. A second catastrophe unfolded in Katrina’s aftermath—a pattern of widespread demolition of thousands of 19th- and early-to-mid-20th-century residential dwellings and civic structures across the city. This post-disaster condition involves a complex, bifurcated labyrinth of local, state, and federal agencies and organizations in the governmental and the private sector. Neighbourhood preservation organizations and grassroots activists are fighting to save the city’s endangered historic fabric. An overview of historic preservation in New Orleans is outlined, followed by an analysis of the geographic pattern of demolitions in the 2005-2008 period, a significant number of which occurred without proper review by duly authorized city or federal agencies. The analysis illustrates the scope and the ramifications of a public policy of rebuilding frequently through the unbuilding of New Orleans’s delicate fabric of historic residential architecture and neighbourhoods at a time when the city continues to experience an acute shortage of affordable housing.”