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||New Orleans, LA
|Whealtey Elementary School
||The Wheatley school building designed by Charles Colbert is important as an internationally recognized work of significant architectural merit. Nationally and locally, it has garnered awards and accolades for its architectural merit and as part of the forward-thinking and "heroic" master plan enacted by the school board in the mid part of the last century. Locally, it is not only one of the singularly most architecturally significant buildings in this city, but its significance to our cultural history cannot be denied. As a building, lovers of architecture, preservation, and New Orleans in general find it an important and enriching part of this city. To demolish this building would be a loss to our city, to our built and cultural heritage, and to future generations who could experience and learn from the past.
There are many ways to adapt this building and site to fit the needs of the Orleans Parish School Board, and to resolve small details that might be seen as a problem in the current construction of the building, while respecting the building as a whole.
The desire to preserve this, and any, building comes from a love and respect of the architecture - but this love and respect comes from the educational value that each significant building, site or neighborhood holds for future generations. As the owner of such an important resource to New Orleans, the Orleans Parish School Board should accept the responsibility of not only preserving something so worthy of existing based on its past, but should do so with the mindset that this preservation act will be in the name of education and enrichment of the current school-ages generation and future generations that are part of the educational system in New Orleans. This is not a preservationist vs. educator argument. The retention of history, adapted to be functional for current comforts and technologies, is one of the most educationally rich tools we have for teaching. Not only is it a "living" example of the past, but it in turn teaches about the preciousness of our resources from an environmentally-minded standpoint. It teaches value for the past, and value for the environment.
If the OPSB is not willing to accept this responsibility, they should allow the building to stand so that someone who is able to accept it has the chance to do so. Demolishing this building does not allow for any further possibilities to be realized, and demolition cannot be undone when, in the future, the citizens of New Orleans realize what has been lost to them.
president, DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana Chapter [DOCOMOMO/NOLA]