Monday, September 8, 2008

Tropical Decay

The city has so many layers of architecture and decay, it is hard to know if a building has been ruined because of Katrina or had been abandoned long before. All these pictures were taken on Canal Street, which is the heart of downtown New Orleans. These buildings are highly visible to everyone, everyday on their way to work or school.

Something tells me Lil' Wayne never played here on November 5th, 2005. Or maybe his was the last performance before the theatre went bankrupt long before Katrina came. It's hard to know if you didn't live here before. If anyone does know, please leave a comment. It's creepy though, to have the date for an event so long ago still on display.

New Orleans, in many ways, reminds me of Maputo. It used to be a very wealthy city too. Some of the architecture is incredible. I always think of the architects. At some point any building was the pride of the person who designed it. Money and labor and imagination were put into homes and office buildings that now rot in the tropical climate. You always wonder what kind of people used to live and work somewhere, and where are they now? New Orleans used to be one of the most important cities and ports in America. The wealth that used to flow through here can still be seen in the mansions that line St. Charles. But those mansions have mostly been divided up into apartments now.


Sally said...

Did you know that the last photo is our old building before Katrina? I learned that while I was waiting for the shuttle today.

Anonymous said...

I remember my parents going to see a Robert Palmer concert at the Saenger back in the 80's! Cool to see some photos of it. As elementary school kids we were taken to see a French language version of Goethe's Faust at the Saenger. I used to catch an RTA bus to work at the Elk and Canal intersection right where the Loews is or was (I think) when I was working at the Superdome for a few months back in 1998. It didn't seem to be open then... ... ...I sort of recall it being boarded up.

It's easy to take for granted but the older I get the progressively more sentimental I get for the grand architecture of my hometown--and I've been in DC for nearly 10 yr. When I think of New Orleans, I think of really beautiful, perhaps tragically so, city.

The oil-bust really did NOLA in based on stuff my dad -who worked in off-shore production-talks about. I grew up out in the Aurora section of Algiers (very 60's high modernist) and naturally spent most time out on the Best Bank--the aftermath of the oil-bust was/is particularly conspicuous there. The collapse of the residential real-estate market, vacant strip shopping malls, collapse of schools, spiralling crime, etc.

I was too young to fully realize it at the time. I actually stumbled onto your blog while looking up an old mall, the Belle Promenade, I remember going to as a kid just to see if it even existed anymore as I knew had been shuttered for some time--it doesn't. Strange stuff.

Only been back once Katrina (my aunt's house was in Lakeview on the 17th canal)...and haven't been able to stomach another trip. So much destruction...Biloxi wasn't even recognizable.

What outsiders fail to understand/believe was that the city was already a terminal case well before the storm hit. Sometimes I tell people Katrina was a storm that took nearly twenty yrs to form.