Monday, June 12, 2006


The show opening went great. I got a lot of interesting feedback, although I felt like I was seeing it all for the first time as well. I met some good folks, the Amazing Hancock Brothers. The had a ton of energy and great prints.

The project is a comment on the prevalence of 'top-down' design projects dealing with the rebuilding of New Orleans after the 2005 Hurricane season and a critique of the relevance of these projects to those affected.

The original project was to interview a small group of individuals that lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina and create bizarre, fantasy architectural models as manifestations of their stories, their housing desires, and my own subjective interpretations. I made contact with the interviewees through social networks, not intending to present a comprehensive data set, but rather a sampling of individuals who have similar backgrounds or lifestyles to me, how they are coping and how they would like to frame their experiences.

As the project continued, I became more interested and influenced by the individual points of view and frameworks for understanding their stories and current situations. The results are four pieces illustrating what I considered to be the themes in each person’s story; Organic Architecture, Condensed Timeline, Communication with the Diaspora, and Intersecting Paths.

See below for pictures and desriptions of the four finished pieces.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I met Tammy through Rosalind Richard (see previous post). She is a photographer who lost her home in the flooding, then recently lost her workspace to a fire. I was struck by the condensed timeline of construction and deconstruction they have experienced. They have been through more challenges with architecture in the past year than most will in a lifetime.


Communicating with the Diaspora.

Rosalind Richard was more than generous with me in making contacts and learning about what is happening now culturally in New Orleans (see "New Orleans detox" post.) The way that she copes with her experience seems to be primarily about communicating her experience and that of others, educating 'outsiders,' and keeping contact with the New Orleans Diaspora. The piece is based on Diaspora maps I found, with the ceter point as New Orleans and a prominent different colored link to Galveston where Rosalind now lives.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Organic Architectures

This sculpture is based off of my interview with Eddie Bernard, glass artist and kiln builder (see previous post). After our interview, I kept thinking about the references and silmilarities we drew to the bees hive and termite nests he found in the house he is rebuilding.

The format is a reference to the beeshive that was between two studs in the wall. The format is also based on castings of the insides of ant nests, an instinctual and organic architecture. I took elements from photographs of the building and reconstructed them as a model of a 'nest.'


Diagrams of Intersecting Paths

This piece is based on the story of Chad Chadwick, a production artist now residing in Austin, TX. He had resettled in New Orleans where he had grown up and his girlfriend had only recently moved from Atlanta to join him before the hurricane. I was intrigued at the idea of this couple having separate paths that were finally converging, only to be 'intersected' by the path of Katrina.

The diagram is based off of several mapping systems. The first was a crude US state map with segmented lines representing borders and solid lines representing the coast. The second was a map of Katrina's progress, color coded for intensity, The last overlay is a map of the couple's progress, based on a map of Lewis & Clark's travels.

Monday, June 05, 2006

New Orleans Detox

My friend Bill Gerrity wrote this to me in a great email from Shanghai:

>...there will be a reservoir of great human strength and wisdom that will grow in the gulf coast as a result of the losses that people have experienced and the perseverance necessary to rise above it.

Yes. I was blown away, not only by how determined the folks I talked to are, but how generous, friendly and open they were with their stories. It was very humbling. Yet, at the same time, it was a wonderful 1st time to visit New Orleans. All of the seeds of its phenomenal culture were laid bare. Racial cooperation, DIY attitudes about building happy lives and businesses, good attitudes in the face of oppressive heat, humidity, and poverty, all leading up to a attitude of celebration just for getting by another day. And MAN! Did I eat! Did I party! I ended up with 3 mormon relief workers, 2 homeless guys, a freestyle rapper from Detroit, a six pack, a guitar, flute, and kazoo playing Jethro Tull on the street. I feel like New Orleans has always been a reservoir, although the metaphor has creepy connotations going into flood season again.

I met Rosalind Richard through a friend from Kent that she is renting a house from in Galveston. She was very helpful with information about her experiences as well as others. The following are photographs she sent to me of the Colliseum Theatre.

I've pasted some of her emails below.

Email, dated 5/24/06

This was written just before Thanksgiving.

My Hurricane Katrina Experience

August 25th was the Friday before Katrina made landfall. At that time, the hurricane was due south of New Orleans and slowly plodding northward. It was Friday night when local news media became insistent that a major hurricane was headed our way. Still, similar such warnings had popped up almost every other year for a decade. Though constant reminders and dire predictions of the catastrophic effects of a "direct hit" on the city was a staple of life in New Orleans, every threatening hurricane had taken a turn to the east at the last minute. Thus, Florida's panhandle had been hit again but New Orleans had been largely unscathed. There was no reason not to assume this hurricane would take a similar course.

Then, on Saturday, August 26th, Katrina was still plodding due North and was getting closer. At that point, though still unconvinced the hurricane would not make an eastward turn, booking a room someplace outside the city seemed like a sensible precautions. Unfortunately, all hotels were booked as far north as Memphis. Yet as I lived in a low lying basement apartment, riding out even a glancing hurricane blow at home seemed not quite the best option. Thus, I booked a room in in a hotel in New Orleans. A friend owned a hotel which had originally been built as an orphanage in the 1800s. It was a solidly built 3 story structure. I booked a room on the 2nd floor, high enough to be safe from flooding, and not subject to having the roof blown off. My friend also took a huge load off my mind by allowing me to bring my 80lb black Labrador retriever named Bear who thinks he is just a toy poodle. At any rate, I was planning on checking in Su

However, on Sunday, August 27th, I arose early to check the weather and discovered that Katrina showed no inkling of moving east, and was now a category 5 monster! For the first time I had doubts as to the wisdom of staying in New Orleans, and felt a real anxiety about the situation. Up until now, I had been more afraid of the stress, frustration and exhaustion that accompany evacuation than I was of the effects of the hurricane. The overwhelming feelings of helplessness entailed with long slowly crawling traffic are familiar to anyone who has taken part in a mass evacuation. Now, I was holding back an ever growing feeling of unease as I contemplated my quandary. Then, the phone rang. It was my older sister, and she demanded I come to her house in North Louisiana to be safe. She had invited me for previous hurricanes, but I had always declined. This time I accepted!

I already had a bag packed for 3 days in the hotel (Pj's, 1 pair of shorts, 1 skirt, 1 dress, a few shirts, and a bathing suit), so I called my boyfriend whom I knew had similarly put off leaving, and we decided to evacuate together -- taking his more reliable late model pickup instead my older Honda sedan.

Still, before I left, I convinced the couple who lived upstairs from me to take my hotel room in New Orleans. Health concerns prevented them from leaving (the wife had suffered a recent mild heart attack), and they had planned on staying in their second story apartment. Notably, the hotel was of sturdier construction and on higher ground.

My boyfriend and I made a pact that we would not allow ourselves to become frustrated or angry during what was sure to be a long and arduous trip. We would listen to the radio, enjoy each other's company, try to take in new scenery and just keep our minds occupied with anything other than impatience at the slow pace of traffic. That attitude made all the difference. We were able to notice that there were at least as many intervals of where traffic flowed unimpeded as there were of bumper to bumper crawls. And even then, one felt a kinship with similarly situated people just trying to be cautious and keep safe. When stops for gas were required, we met people who were also trying to cope good naturedly with the situation. It turns out, after we had left, the mayor had called for an immediate mandatory evacuation. Many of the people we met had been at church when the mandatory evacuation order went out, and thus left with only the nice clot

Eventually, we got to my sisters' home. I do not even know how long the trip took, because my boyfriend and I had agreed not to keep track of time so as not to count the hours. At any rate, we arrived to discover that almost my entire New Orleans area family were already there. We were now a group of 14 people and 4 dogs. We were all looking forward to a few days together at the large rambling house in rural Louisiana, thinking that within a couple of days we would be facing an arduous journey once again as we trekked back to New Orleans. In the meantime, we would enjoy each other and make the best of it.

Then, hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans early on Monday, August 28th, and it came through northern Louisiana later that day, even blowing down trees in the yard of the house we were staying. Unfortunately, we all developed the bad habit of staring at the TV for information as to what was going on in New Orleans. We soon heard of the breaches in the canal levees and discovered that our homes were threatened. Actually, it turned out that for most of my family, their homes and possessions were intact. However, my basement apartment lay directly across from one of the canal levees that gave way, and everything I had not taken with me had become inundated by the flood. Further, what had started out as a novel weekend with my family, soon turned into a grueling ordeal as we were all powerless to do anything but watch and wait, as returning to New Orleans was no longer possible. None of us knew what was to become of us, as we could not all s

Eventually, we all decided on taking different paths. Some of my family moved to Baton Rouge, finding an apartment together. For those with children, immediate decisions had to be made about getting them into school and re-establishing a routine. Pressing actions had to be taken regarding jobs and income. Paperwork with the disaster relief agencies had to be filed. My boyfriend and were able to make arrangements to be taking in with his brother in Galveston. The trip to Galveston was another arduous journey, but once again our spirits held up and we made it an enjoyable outing. We came to the island taking the ferry from Bolivar, and were greeted by several dolphins as we crossed Galveston Bay.

Now it turns out that boyfriend and I both had lost all our worldly possessions. Everything we owned spent three weeks under eleven feet of muddy water. A subsequent trip back since the water has receded revealed only that nothing was salvageable. Everything was destroyed -- clothes, tools, appliances, furniture, family photos, knick-knacks, etc. And yet, I only feel blessed. It is hard to describe, but none of what I lost seems important now. I am only aware of how much more others have lost, and how wonderful and giving people have been. My boyfriend's brother and his wife were our first angels, introducing us to their friends and their church. I have learned to humbly ask for help when in need, and the blessing of gratitude that comes when complete strangers respond. Upon reflection, even the long week of anxiety together with my family while we were all stuck and afraid in northern Louisiana was a blessing. Usually

Honestly though, I would like to stop having to evacuate for hurricanes. After being in Galveston only a short time, we had to get out of Rita's way. We went to San Antonio, and stayed with the mother of a friend from New Orleans. My friend had evacuated to her mother's for hurricane Katrina, so it was nice to be able to visit with her and her mother.

Now though, I have a wonderful apartment in a unique and enchanting island city and am making new friends and looking forward to getting married.


Email, dated 5/24/06

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chris Rose: Louisiana ambassadors say hello
Dear America,

I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We're South

We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and
we apologize for that, but we never were much for
waiting around for invitations. We're not much on
formalities like that.

And we might be staying around your town for a while,
enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we
wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you
didn't ask for this and neither did we, so we're just
going to have to make the best of it.

First of all, we thank you. For your money, your
water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses
and the men and women of your National Guards, fire

Email, dated 5/25/06

"where will you be in New Orleans... where will you be staying?? One of my_friends Ellis came back right after the storm his pictures are showing @ the New Orleans Museum of Art... he is a great guy I'll try to get you a meeting w/ him if you like. While down there go to a local bookstore and find a book by Chris Rose ONE DEAD IN ATTIC They were sold out last time I was there.... If you do find it please buy one for me.. I want to give one to Don.. I'll pay you when you get here. Chris is a writer for the paper. the book is a compilation of his stories just after the storm.... he wrote the HELLO AMERICA story I emailed you. Also the last place I worked before the storm is back and running... 2 of the cooks stayed for the storm and had to suffer through the whole superdome mess.. I bet they have incredible stories They are at Joey K's Restaurant 3001 Magazine ( near Commanders Palace) in the Garden District. I have another friend Tammy who lived in Chalmette. lost her home... right after the storm lost her sister ( she was ill before the storm). came back to New Orleans started working again after they did almost 1/2 million in repairs. from the storm (photography & film studio).I am a foodstylist and had a photo shoot that I was driving in for on a Monday.... the Friday before she & I are on the phone.. I am telling her.. OF ALL OF MY FRIENDS YOU HAVE LOST THE MOST .. BUT HAVE THE BEST ATTITUDE!!!! YOU HAVE_REALLY KEPT YOUR HEAD UP!!!! she then says HANG ON SOMEBODY UP FRONT IS YELLING......... she gets back on the phone and says THEY ARE SAYING SOMETHING LIKE GET OUT..... ANYWAY ROZ . IT CAN'T GET ANY WORSE then I hear door slam open and a mans voice yelling GET OUT THE BUILDINGS ON FIRE!!!!! 2 hours later 5 pm she calls back crying REMEMBER HOW I SAID IT COULDN'T GET ANY WORSE??? IT JUST DID!!! This beautiful historic old building burned to the ground.2 helicopters dropping water and 5 fire stations.. and they couldn't save it... Now she has that tinge of depression in her voice just like the rest of my friends. It's very sad. The city is truly broken. If you'd like to talk to her I'll call her and ask. I think it would be good for her to talk about it. anyway you are the one with the schedule lets play it by ear whenever you get here will be fine.. Enjoy Chicago... go to the billy goat have a cheeseburger chips and a pepsi for me!! Roz__"

Email sent, 5/28/06

"I know it's long, but read it. This guy writes for the Times Picayune. If you like it, go purchase his book post Katrina "One Dead In Attic"

Chris Rose's commencement speech at Ursuline University

Saturday, June 03, 2006


So damn hot the restrooms are refridgerated

Henderson Swamp

You don't have to tell me twice.

Drove to New Orleans from Houston on I-10. Stopped at a Burger King and three separate groups of people were speaking Creole. I drove through the Atchafalaya Basin River Swamp on the elevated bridge highway. Unbelievable, both the landscape and the engineering. It is amazing that folks were able to make a life down here. The vegetation grows on top of itself.

Disaster tourism=masochism

Disaster Masters on the job.

Palm Trees @ Harrod's

Man! New Orleans has everything!

Ok, so the normal instinct of any tourist is to fantasize about what it would be like to live in the place they are visiting and having relationships with the elusive 'local.' The conflicting feelings of openess and guardedness in both the visitor and the local are exagerated when facing the stories and frustrations about the rebuilding process in New Orleans. I want to know more, but the more I ask, the more I feel like a voyeur or a celebrity gossip column reader.

The early half of the day was spent in the museum district, seeing a number of poignant exhibitions. The National WWII Museum, or the “D Day” museum, was obviously well funded. Although I was admittedly contextualizing the exhibits, the focus on community efforts on conservation and rebuilding seemed very relevant. Both the Contemporary Art Center and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art had Katrina themed exhibitions. At the contemporary, it was a show of local artists' work, damaged by the storm and flood. The other was an exhibit of local photographer and prof at LSU, Thomas Neff, called "Come Hell and High Water: Portraits of Hurricane Katrina Survivors." One portrait turned out to be of a museum guard that walked into the exhibit while I was standing there. They had a family party on the Saturday before the storm and decided to ride it out because they were sited on higher ground and the family was already together with plenty of food. During the week they were stuck there, they used the pool in the backyard to cool folks down and stay hygienic. At one point, a news helicopter flew above and saw the blue pool, focused in to see the guard floating in the pool with a beer.

French Quarter.

Mardi Gras bead in drain

At night, I went down to the French Quarter. Absolutely gorgeous, felt like Europe. Walked around for awhile search for Wifi. I was told by several folks that the city had promised city-wide service after Katrina. I was told the closer I got to Decatur, the better the signal. Never got it. I got different stories from folks about it, most seemed incredulous about this ever working reliably, describing it as 'spotty at best.' One person rolled their eyes and called it a 'consolation prize.' Ended up in a bar called One Eyed Jack's who let me use theirs, drank too much vodka and crashed by 9pm. I was woken up by what I can only imagine was a pimped out cruise-mobile by the glass-chandelier-vibrating bass and the reflection of gas lamps in its rims on my hotel room ceiling.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Drove in on the spillway, had no idea that Lake Pontchartrain is so huge. I guess I have no scale reference while looking at maps.

I got off the highway at Carrolton Street to interview Eddie Bernard. I was shocked at how much debris was still on the streets. Eddie later told me that they are still doing free trash pickup until June 30th and a lot of folks are just returning now and gutting their properties.

Eddie was fantastic. He was so generous with his time and stories…in the first 20 minutes I was overwhelmed. He was one of the first 5000 folks back after Katrina one month afterwards. He and his wife Angela spent that first month in Rochester, NY where he had gone to school at RIT. Before Katrina, he ran a glass kiln building business he’d built up over 10 years with upwards of 13 employees. He and several employees camped out in Rochester, he and his wife sharing a twin sized air mattress.

When they came back, their 2nd story apartment hadn’t been flooded, but his warehouse had 3 ft of water (above the 3 foot loading dock). He is still in the process of refurbishing the offices, redoing electrical, cleaning rust off of machine parts and stock steel. He said when he returned it smelled like ‘low tide.’ The dry walled office spaces were infested with mold, giving off an incredible stench. He said the there was no breeze, that everything seemed stagnant, even sound. There was an absence of the white noise of a city, no cars, no machinery, only the occasional generator noise. There is a large newspaper distribution warehouse kitty corner to his studio that had sustained significant damage. He described working in the studio with the only noise being the occasional creaking and flapping of the metal roofing on the warehouse and his own roof.

He told me about a beached yacht in the neighborhood. Rescue boats had been abandoned as the flood receded all over the city, all kinds of boats. He would go to the boat for respite and a beer while working on his space because it was the only space not covered in the mud and sludge left behind. I saw some trailers and boats on what looked like the top of a parking garage and asked if they were also left behind. He told me that the owner of the garage was leasing the space to FEMA, and that those were temporary houses, a mishmash of small yachts and trailers. He described other entrepreneurial ventures that had happened since the flood. He described a guy doing on the spot car tire repairs for $15 each. When cars were first able to drive around, the tires were constantly being punctured by debris. Folks took tires (and other parts, such as truck beds) off of abandoned cars, but punctured wheels on a daily basis. Another guy had bought up some property before the storm with the intention of building a tract of small houses. His land is now a FEMA trailer park , with the originally intended building going up across the street. Eddie himself almost went into to business using his leased studio warehouse as a local distribution center for re construction materials.

Eddie and Angela had bought a double lot with a shotgun duplex house in the neighborhood before the storm with the intention of demolishing the house and potentially rebuilding the business there. The business had been successful and they decided to invest their money in real estate equity in the area. Rather than demolish the house, he is now renovating it with the help of 3 men from El Salvador that he met who were camping out near his warehouse. They turned out to be excellent carpenters and house framers, formerly employed by a contractor. They are still living in tents behind the local supermarket under an awning. When the house is habitable, they’ll move into it. Because they have eliminated the contractor/middle man, Eddie is able to pay them much more than they would’ve earned while paying much less than he would’ve paid a contractor (compounded by the fact that the availability of contractors and materials was severely impacted). These guys came to the table with construction experience and expertise; Eddie has CADCAM skills from his business and was able to generate plans for a permit that an architect friend signed off on. The permit process is another story…

The house was termite ridden and damaged by a fire next door. There was a beehive behind the drywall between two studs, stretching from the floor to the ceiling. Eddie showed me some amazing termite nests they found there. It reminded me of the BLDGblog post about casting ant architecture. The more we talked about this, the more relationships I began to draw between the spontaneous, instinctual, organic architectures and what is happening in the neighborhood. Towards the end of my visit, Eddie was expressing some doubt about the process…why rebuild and use more resources to do so? Is the potential of new hurricanes and new flooding going to doom the city and waste all of these efforts again? After making a disclaimer about triteness, I told him it seems natural. He agreed.

He is a native of the Gulf Coast; his wife is 6th generation New Orleans Creole. A month after the storm they came back and after some discussion decided to stay and rebuild. He expressed some anger about the canal levees and their neglect before the storm. His business had been ten years in the making with a loyal and local group of employees he had trained. He told me that the flooding rendered 40 years of collective productivity moot. At the same time he feels strong responsibility and love towards the city. He pointed out that when outsiders casually state that New Orleaners should just accept and move on, rebuild their lives in a new area, they are missing the vital point. It is an irreplaceable city, experience, lifestyle and culture.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Road Trip!

Jo endangers others by taking picture through windshield. Austin-Houston, May 30th.

Lagrange, Tx. Bought fudge

Bridge over Colorado.