I’m getting a theory about why the built-environment reactionaries of downtown went loopy about Elisio. I can feel it beaming down from the clouds just after the rain passes, up there to the left at about ten o’clock.
Not about Costello and Deveney. We don’t know for sure what happened there, but lust for petty power, a few strands of narcissism, the joy of manipulation – things like that came into it.
I mean the ordinary folk, the me-too residents who followed the objection parade but not sure why.
Height is the fallback, the easy one. “High-rise,” and that’s all you have to say. You can cite a binary rule. No nuance required. Then join the war cry; campaign camaraderie, pat each other on the back; soon you’re back home, feeling good, watching Fox News.
The cloudbeam is telling me it is rhythm. Architecture is often compared to music – rhythm, harmony, texture. The New Orleans conservative neighborhoodies are used to the simple symmetries of the old house styles. The doubles that form most of their environment have a simple basic shape, then symmetrical placement of everything – two doors, equidistant from the edges; windows, stairs, porch rails, brackets and ornaments – a simple, soothing symmetry. They remind me of early chamber music, with a harpsichord. What Jonathan calls “powdered wig music.” (He is immersed in it, among other traditions, so has earned the right to poke some fun at it.)
Look at Elisio. It is challenging to find the balances. It is more like Thelonius Monk, Ornette Coleman or Eric Dolphy. Textures, levels, volumes, reflections – they vary across the surface in unexpected ways. Maybe unease with Elisio bubbles up from the same place that likes repetitive, predictable tourist music on Frenchmen Street. That prefers the “cultural economy” over creativity, exploration and art. That finds it more comfortable to turn away from a design and into a political fight, simplifying the challenge from the mental and aesthetic to the tribal.
It could explain why StudioWTA and its clients took a more conservative visual design approach on the Latrobe buildings and Stateside. Solving the technical challenges of building on Press Street was already incompatible with the fundamentalists’ beliefs. Don’t scare the horses.
Take another look, Marignards. See if there is something in it.
With some luck, Mercato Elisio may grind some money out of Deveney, who either was happy to or was browbeaten into using the conflict to diminish the integrity of the HDLC, inappropriately influencing its decisions, and build this somewhere else. Maybe a different site on Elysian. Maybe the same site. I like an Ornette Coleman building. I am going to check out the rent.
Marigny has two Neighborhood Associations, FMIA and One Marigny. One Marigny is unfortunately not yet large or active enough to offset FMIA on its own, and FMIA, despite its occasional boast about its longevity and maturity, is unfortunately stuck in the evolutionary stage of a residentialist vigilante group, not (at least yet) a real neighborhood association. It should be. Marigny is potentially a great neighborhood, much better and fresher than it is now, that deserves better than a sociopathic club claiming to be “the neighborhood.”
A proto-fascist presidential candidate recently told an all-white audience in the suburbs of Milwaukee that we need more police – not better policing, just more blue boots on the ground – in poor neighborhoods – very thin code for Black and Latino, for more suppression of dissent, more repression, more police violence and killing. Now egged on by Bannon of Breitbart, a nativist online comic for wingnuts, the same orange-toned ape-like creature is calling for “extreme vetting,” including of ideology. In other words, thought police. In the thankfully unlikely possibility that this buffoon of a Mussolini impersonator wins national office, we could look forward to reinstatement of the sickening loyalty oaths and ideological probes of the Red Scare McCarthy period.
Let’s not forget that Trump’s lawyer and introducer into Manhattan society through one of its seamier sewers and close friend for years was McCarthy’s sidekick, Roy Cohn (not that he believed in it, or in anything). Cohn became a ferocious New York lawyer and power broker, was eventually disbarred, and after achieving some prominence for anti-gay statements in the dark ages, died of AIDS in 1986. The New York Times article a couple of months ago is vivid on what kind of scumbags Cohn was and Trump is.
But even under that orange threat level and West Louisiana catastrophes, we have to reserve some attention for little local tyrannies, for that is where it starts. Or ends up – hard to say.
So, now change your lens to its macro setting (the tulip symbol, for extreme close-up, like pictures of little bugs). To give it a chance of rescue from its own demons and the mounting mood of fascism in the dark corners of our country, I am going to throw FMIA a lifeline.
They are looking for new directors. I am going to volunteer. It’s a sacrifice, but they need saving. Their reputation is in the gutter, Their decision processes are . . . bewildered. Their interactions with the city are confrontational and incoherent, more likely to generate stifled laughter than collaboration. They launch lawsuits without thinking it through, looking lost and desperate as the City Attorney shreds their case.
I can save them. I can help cure their internal affliction and repair their reputation. I can help them pick the right fights. I can teach them to negotiate. I can help them face real problems, not get Increasingly desperate about fantasies. If they are smart, they will accept my offer. I can lead them out of the wilderness Costello and Deveney led them into.
Only I can do this. Only I can save them.
© NOLscape August 2016