The Dirty South - New Orleans

Masters Studio with Jennifer Bonner

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    'World Fair'-ness of Black Market Architecture

    Stefann Plishka
    May 11, '15 4:48 PM EST

    For his project, Andrew Llewellyn explored what can happen when architectural remnants of the 1984 World’s Fair are infiltrated by an outlaw operation. Taking a closer look at the last World Fair in the United States and the only to close due to bankruptcy, Stefann Plishka interviews Andrew about the Fair’s impact on New Orleans and how black market architecture fits in so well with the city’s sordid reputation.


    The World's Fair is a ripe and popular topic for architects to unpack - what was your particular interest at the outset? What was your takeaway?

    The 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans was the last in the United States and the only World’s Fair to declare bankruptcy during its run. It took four years to plan and was only up for six months. Other cities got iconic buildings from their World Fairs - like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Space Needle in Seattle. But New Orleans only ever wanted a new convention center, and not an iconic one at that. It was as if the 1984 World’s Fair was a false front for the city of New Orleans to fund that project - and it worked! The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is the largest (and some would say only) relic of the World’s Fair in New Orleans. For my own research and design project, I played into the theme of an “illegal architecture” and used the massiveness of the convention center to conceal a black market auction house.

    Something else I thought was interesting, the 1984 expo was the first to have a mascot - Seymore D. Fair, a tuxedo-wearing pelican. He showed up at the 1984 Republican National Convention - an interesting choice considering the fair’s fiscal extravagance.


    In proposing a black market auction house hidden in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, you design an architecture of illegality. What place does this type of architecture have in 21st century  New Orleans?

    During the final review, Mack Scogin of MSME Architects said “Everyone in New Orleans considers themselves a bit of an outlaw.” I thought this phrase was perfect in describing why a black market auction house would be successful in New Orleans. The convention center provides the cover for the user to act out their own outlaw fantasy, just like the World’s Fair provided the cover for the city to construct the convention center. And like a speakeasy, you have to be in the know to find the entrance to the auction halls and access those spaces. Those elements of darkness and secrecy fit into the history of the city and the 1984 World’s Fair, and the building expansion hovers ominously like a dark cloud over the convention center.


    Charles Moore's Wonderwall - a 1/2 mile long junk collage - was another icon of the 1984 Expo. Why was that appropriate? How does post-modernism relate to New Orleans culturally/socially/politically/etc?

    Post-modernism works like a vignette - taking elements from an existing idea or projection and then altering those imagined expectations. Moore’s Wonderwall - like the Piazza d’Italia - was composed of elements from the classical orders, then fragmented and integrated with pelicans and alligators. New Orleans as a city is also like that; it takes the “typical” elements of a city, and fragments and distorts those into a unique conglomeration. It’s composed of snapshots from the past, present, and future and reimagines what those elements are. Bourbon Street is the epitome of this - it references the past but exists as a Disney-fied future. Historic New Orleans was never really like that - overrun with lusty tourists drinking daiquiris through straws out of styrofoam cups. But now that’s what people go to New Orleans to see and do. That’s the vignette of New Orleans that exists in people’s minds.

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About this Blog

The second installation of The Dirty South studio with Jennifer Bonner at Georgia Tech takes on New Orleans. Using the legacy of Dirty South hip hop as inspiration within the framework of a guidebook of B-side tours, students investigated unusual patterns and idiosyncrasies in the city. Projects spanned topics from misuse of Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia to reappropriation of the city's most controversial monuments to installation of an illegal auction house within the convention center.

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