polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

The City in Celluloid

by Katia Savchuk

Long before Katrina hit, New Orleans was in the eye of different storms. To be exact, its Faubourg Tremé neighborhood – possibly the oldest black neighborhood in America – was a focal point of both the Civil Rights movement and the jazz revolution. It was also the site of an important slave market, a 19th century red light district and a misguided urban renewal project in the 1960s.

As part of the Architecture in the City Film Series on Wednesday, September 16, a New Orleans columnist who lives in the neighborhood introduces the area’s remarkable history and more recent struggles with drugs and poverty.*

Switching gears, the following week the festival screens 1000 Sq. Ft., about Los Angeles’s modernist architect Gregory Ain; an interaction with the filmmakers will follow. The most interesting part of that documentary could be interviews with current residents of his Avenel housing project, an experiment in cooperative low-cost housing built in the 1940s. Filmmaker Christianne Robbins lived at the complex while shooting the film.

* Incidentally, David Simon – creator of The Wire – is developing a series for HBO called Treme, set in the neighborhood after Katrina.

Credits: Image from the San Francisco Public Library.