What Kinds Of Houses Do Modern New Orleanians Prefer? Ones That Look Old

Dec 8, 2016

Each month Richard Campanella explores a different story of New Orleans' geography and architecture, with  WWNO News Director Eve Troeh.

After the sleek lines, steel and glass of Modern architecture was embraced by New Orleans in various forms from the 1920s to the early 1970s, it was firmly rejected as the century closed. Campanella chalks this up to sentiment about the city's economy, and its outlook for the future.

As its population declined, jobs in shipping and oil and gas disappeared, and other Southern cities like Houston outshone New Orleans in growth, residents looked to the past. They found comfort in buildings that represented better times for the city, that instilled pride in New Orleans' history - architecturally and otherwise - rather than  looking toward what might come. This coincided with a rise in tourism as the dominant industry, too.

This trend continued into the 1980s and 90s, and up to the 2000s when the deluge of Hurricane Katrina destroyed thousands of buildings. "With such bad memories behind them," Campanella writes, "would families opt for a refreshing contemporary look?"

His answer, arrived at via a study of 6,000-plus building permits issued in Orleans Parish from 2005 t0 2012: a definitive no.

In looking at photographs of these homes built after the storm, Campanella found that for every one post-Katrina house with a contemporary or modern facade, there were 14 that chose a historical look. "That's 93 percent of homeowners opting for neotraditionalism," he writes.