Urbs and Civitas
History and Theory
Word Count :
Situated on a bend of the Mississippi river New Orleans has been the chief city of Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico’s busiest northern port since the early 1700's. Originally founded by the French five feet below sea level and named La Nouvelle Orleans after Phillippe Duc D'Orleans the city at the time was confined to what is now called the French Quarter. The French Quarter is laid out in a grid system. This grid system was put in place after a hurricane hit in 1722 and destroyed most of its structures. New Orleans was later ruled under the Spanish for nearly fourty years and then bought by the United States in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.
In 1762 New Orleans came under the Spanish rule. Although short lived Spain would have a lasting imprint on the city from its culture to the architecture the same goes for France. New Orleans has long been considered a disaster waiting to happen perhaps due to its many unfortunate disastrous events which have unfolded in its lifetime from natural to man-made. Beginning with the hurricane in 1722 to 1788 when the city went up in flames incinerating a vast number of buildings and homes the figures were thought to be around 800, and then again in 1794 where another fire took hold of the city resulting in the further loss of around 200 structures. These fires destroyed large signs of French architecture that had stood there since the French founded the city. One of the only surviving structures is the old Ursuline Convent built in 1752.
Under French, Spanish and American flags, Creole society coalesced as Islanders, West Africans, slaves, free people of colour and indentured servants poured into the city along with a mix of French and Spanish aristocrats, merchants, farmers, soldiers, freed prisoners and nuns. New Orleans was, for its time, a permissive society, that resulted an intermingling of peoples unseen in other communities. And it is New Orleans' diverse heritage that is the driving force behind this unique and exotic city. The contributions of Africans, Caribbean peoples, the French, Spanish, Germans, Irish Sicilians and more created a society unlike any other.1 Nowadays ......
New Orleans has long endured devastation at the hand of nature mostly from that of hurricanes. From the year 2000 to present at least 28 tropical or subtropical cyclones have affected the state of Louisiana naming but a few Isaac, Gustav, Rita, Cindy, Ivan, George and the worst which caused the most destruction, death and despair Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans on August 19th 2005. A hurricane is a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics that can cause catastrophic damage with winds exceeding 100mps and thunderstorms containing extremely heavy winds. When Katrina hit land it reached category 5 on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane scale. The Saffir Simpson scale ranges from category 1-5 which meant Katrina was very strong but New Orleans's damage wasn’t due to the Hurricane completely it was so destructive primarily because levees around New Orleans failed. With only half the city lying above sea level, its average elevation is roughly six feet below sea level and is completely surrounded by water this is why the levees and drainage system is of such importance. A levee is an elongated naturally occurring ridge or artificially constructed fill or wall, which regulates water levels 2.The first form of man-made levee system in New Orleans was built by the French between 1717 and 1772 and only measured 3 feet tall which considerably too short to contain the Mississippi river during high flooding. In 1879 the US Army corps engineers became involved and sought to deepen the river and make it more navigable and less likely to flood, in 1885 a 'Levee only' policy was adopted meaning for the next forty years the uS Army corps engineers worked to extend the levee system closing...
References: Shotgun house : http://www.myneworleans.com/
orange house vernacular : http://thearchitectstake.com/editorials/new-orleans-post-katrina-making-right/
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