Shaping the City Heads to New Orleans

John Hill
28. September 2023
Photo © Federico Vespignani, courtesy of the ECC

Subtitled “A Forum for Sustainable Cities and Communities,” Shaping the City aims to “bring together architects, planners, academics, policy makers, and politicians to discuss effective design solutions with a focus on designing for climate emergencies.” The first edition, organized by ECC, took place in Venice in 2018, with the second edition following in 2021, also in Venice. Readers of World-Architects will no doubt be familiar with the name ECC, since they host architectural exhibitions at Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora, and other venues in Venice under the “Time Space Existence” title. This year, for instance, they exhibited a prototype of the Norman Foster Foundation's Essential Homes Research Project and the Young Talent 2023 winners and finalists as part of the larger TSE exhibition.

While it therefore makes sense for Shaping the City to have a home in Venice, in 2021 the ECC traveled to Chicago to hold the Shaping the City Forum in the context of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and this year two of its three editions are being held outside of Venice: Shaping Urban Commons was held in St. Louis in April and Shaping the City New Orleans takes place on October 5 and 6 at multiple venues in NOLA; the Shaping the City Forum returns to Venice in November. The various venues allow the ECC to hold the forums in the context of other events, such as the annual meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) in St. Louis, but also explore issues appropriate to each place. For Shaping the City New Orleans, the ECC teamed up with NANO, which was established in New Orleans in 2001 and since that time has grown from a two-person studio to a 22-person firm “performing internationally recognized, resilient solutions to the built environment while honing their craft for the future solutions to our communities and global challenges today.”

Shaping the City Chicago, 2021 (Photo © Feature Studio, courtesy of the ECC)

New Orleans is a logical venue for a forum rooted in Venice, given that the two low-lying cities are greatly impacted by the threats of climate change, particularly coastal flooding from rising seawaters. Venice spent billions of euros to build its MOSE floodgates to prevent catastrophic flooding, while even more dollars were spent to rebuild the levee system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Still, neither city is safe from a climate emergency in which, “by midcentury, more than a billion people living in low-lying coastal cities and settlements globally are projected to be at risk from coastal-specific climate hazards,” this per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Clearly, Venice and New Orleans, with respective populations of around 260,000 and 375,000, are far from alone in being at risk in the coming decades.

Appropriately, Shaping the City New Orleans kicks off at the AIA New Orleans Center for Design on October 5 with the “Venice X New Orleans” session, showcasing “an in-depth presentation focusing on the similarities between Venice and New Orleans, how they are bolstering their cities towards climate change from a planning, design, and policy perspective.” As moderated by the ECC team, the “similarities, differences, and common approaches for designing for climate emergency for the two cities will be discussed” — and most likely further discussed during the cocktail reception that follows. The second day consists of two sessions taking place in the Patrick F. Taylor Library at the Ogden Museum; those sessions are described below.

Terri Hogan Dreyer and Ian Dreyer, owners and founding partners of NANO, at Shaping the City Venice, 2021 (Photo © Federico Vespignani)

Session 1: Catalysing Urban Climate Resilience (morning of October 6)
“This session of Shaping the City New Orleans acknowledges the necessity to prepare for impending sea level rise, and to assist flood- prone shoreline areas and communities to become more resilient, by showcasing studies, architectural, urban design examples and proposals from different cities across the world on how to co-exist with water.”

Session 2: Environmental Justice and Climate Change (afternoon of October 6)
“This session of Shaping the City New Orleans will look into climate related migration and displacement of people and communities due to climate change. Through different lenses and case studies, the session will focus on strategies that encompass and highlight issues related to social inclusion, spatial justice, development, and equal opportunities for an equitable healthy future for all.”

Visit the Shaping the City website for a breakdown of the sessions and a list of speakers that will participate in the panels and other components of Shaping the City New Orleans.

World-Architects is a media partner for Shaping the City New Orleans, taking place at the AIA New Orleans Design Center on October 5 (4pm – 9pm) and in the Patrick F. Taylor Library at the Ogden Museum on October 6 (8:30am – 5:30pm). Admission is free with prior registration.

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