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||Name redacted at the request of the author
||New Orleans, LA
|Thomy Lafon Elementary School, 2601 Seventh Street, New Orleans, LA
||Robert Kelley's 1954 photographs for Life Magazine document just how miserable life in this school was: crowds of smiling black children proudly posing in the school's courtyard, students rapt by their teacher's lesson and showered in light from both sides of the room, and kids playing in the wonderful and unusual spaces beneath the elevated building. On the contrary, these photos are a record of a provocative and progressive (yes, it's possible here in New Orleans!) approach to school design, not of a myopic Modernist architect's failed utopian fantasy or, as some poster's have charged, a relic of a racially-motivated building campaign.
People from the surrounding neighborhood who have had some experience with the working school are understandably skeptical. Remember: physical and financial neglect almost ruined this school, not some shortcoming inherent to the architecture. These people should be reassured that, if this forum is any indication, smart and caring people will rally around a salvaged Thomy Lafon School and insure that the resources will be mustered and all voices will be heard in future efforts to rehabilitate or repurpose this building.
A note to the RSD: Viva la revolucion(!) in public schooling and education policy that you're taking part in. But when it comes to the design of learning spaces for our great city's children, please try to think outside of the big brick box.
There is no shortage of solutions floating around in the ether (i.e. here on the web, in any architecture office in the city or abroad, our in your local coffee shop or corner store), but for the sake of constructive dialogue, I want to briefly suggest two preferable solutions: 1. Adaptive re-use by the RSD or the city or, 2) Sale or long-term lease to the private sector with promise of adaptive re-use. In both cases, design competitions and community charrettes were made for this sort of thing. Tap the immense creative powers in this city (and beyond) to design and ultimately implement a better future for this building.