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The Three Urbanisms of New Orleans

Posted on Jan 01, 2017 in NOLA , New Orleans , January–February 2017

The Seaside Institute visits the Wedding Cake House in New Orleans.

The Seaside Institute hosts travel seminar in NOLA By Janie Henderson

Seaside, as we all know, is the birthplace of New Urbanism. As part of our mission to recognize, teach and promote the movement, our members participate in an annual travel seminar, where they immerse themselves in the culture of a New Urbanist town. In October 2016, we traveled to one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world: New Orleans, La.

The Three Urbanisms of New Orleans tour, led by Andrés Duany, gave our members a view of the city that ordinary tours could not offer. We admired the unique architecture and absorbed the culture. Most notably, we took a closer look at the neighborhoods that were heaviest hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the role that new urbanism played during their reconstruction.

We visited the Lower Ninth Ward on a sunny, Saturday afternoon. Walking and talking with Duany, who had been involved with reconstruction since right after Katrina, we almost started to feel as though we were the only people around for miles. The mood was quiet and somber. As this portion of the tour came to a close, our bus pulled into view and we realized it was the first vehicle we had seen in quite a while.

As we prepared to leave, Duany casually pointed to a classic cottage and said, “This is one of my houses.” We stopped to glance at his design when a voice came from the front porch and said, “This ain’t your house, it’s my house!” Suddenly we realized that we weren’t alone after all, and we were standing in someone’s front yard.

That someone was Gertrude LeBlanc. And it turned out that she didn’t mind the company. We sat with her for a while as she told us about her life and family. In her front yard, you could still see the front steps of her original home that had been destroyed by Katrina. She said she had spent the majority of her life working indoors, and she always dreamed of retiring to her front porch where she could sit on her swing, read her books and talk to her neighbors passing by.

Nobody cared that we were behind schedule and ignoring the itinerary. In that moment, it was just Gertrude and her friends — Robert Davis, Andrés Duany and Bob Chapman, telling stories on the front porch. Suddenly the town of Seaside and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans didn’t seem too different. Collectively, this was our favorite memory of the trip. It was the type of moment that only a New Urbanism travel seminar could create.

Grab your passport and renew your Institute Membership, because the next travel seminar is scheduled for October 2017. Stay tuned for details.

Visit The Seaside Institute online.