Posted by: Khepera | Saturday, 10 July 2004

Architecture is a gumbo of cultures


This is particularly poignant as much of this was devastated by Rita, and the flooding following Katrina. More than poor folks homes was lost in New Orleans….

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..thought some might find it of interest, particularly in terms of what it speaks to regarding synthesis…@ music, technology, art, etc., etc. Yes, the conference is past, but the points & links are valid… It’s about synthesis & synergy, and those who argue for the myth of *exclusivity* seriously miss the point…and their own blind spot as well…

full article

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Wednesday October 22, 2003
by Lolis Eric Elie

When Dan Brown looks at the Cabildo, there’s one element he has difficulty explaining.

The building’s European features are obvious, but somehow its ironwork seems to hail neither from France nor Spain.

“That building has been identified as Spanish or as French, but that design work as we look at it seems to come out of west African iron tradition,” said Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in Tulane University’s preservation program.

“We know that the Africans brought over complex ironworking traditions,” Brown said.

For Brown, the Cabildo is one of many buildings that exemplifies a kind of aesthetic amalgamation inherent in our city’s architecture.

To understand these buildings, he says, you have to understand all the peoples and cultures that existed here.

Creole presentations

Brown will be one of the many scholars presenting papers at “Creole Legacies: The Current Status and Future Prospects of Creole Studies Research,” a conference here this week.

Much of the conference will feature scholarly presentations. Martha Ward will deliver a talk on a fairly straightforward topic, “Marie Laveau: The Life and Disappearance of the Last Creole Queen of the Voudous.”

Salikoko S. Mufwene and Lucille M. Booker’s talk has a far more involved title, “Creoles and Sugar Cane Cultivation: What the Histories of Louisiana and Brazil Suggest About the Development or Absence of Creole.”

There also will be less academic components such as family history exhibits.

Beyond the surface

Brown’s talk is titled “Creole Vernacular Architecture: The Origins of Common and Everyday Housing in Colonial Louisiana.”

“Primarily, what I’m referring to is housing that develops here in New Orleans,” he said.

Brown argues that the range of people who worked to design and construct buildings in this city may have contributed to the Creole aesthetic in ways that are not always obvious.

If you were able to strip away the walls of some ostensibly European buildings, Brown says, you might well find that the beams are connected using African joinery techniques.

Even the dimensions of a room might hint at the ethnicity of the people who constructed it. West African rooms are typically rectangular in shape and 80 to 100 square feet in area.

French rooms, by contrast, tend to be square and typically are larger in area than their African counterparts.

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“Creole Legacies: The Current Status and Future Prospects of Creole Studies Research” will take place Oct. 23-25 at Tulane University and the Radisson Hotel New Orleans, 1500 Canal St. Although many exhibits will be free, registration for the scholarly presentations is $55. For information, call (504) 862-8027, or visit www.nsula.edu/creole/.

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