I remember when this …er..ensemble was created, and the incredible press it got. “The End of Modernism!!” shouted the critics, and the bravos of the Post-Modern wave. Eh, what..?
Created to commemorate the contribution of Italian immigrants to New Orleans, not the most prominent group in NOLA consciousness, it’s true, it was declared a masterpiece by some. What I did not know was that barely a few years later, it was decrepit and unused, a lonely architectural joke in a location where the expected development did not occur. Some quipped it was the world’s first post-modern ruin.
This self-conscious pastiche has learned a bit too much from Las Vegas and Robert Venturi’s take on it, for my taste. Fine for the backyard of a trendy summer house or an architect’s getaway, but as a node in a downtown urban redevelopment scheme? As this interesting recap of the birth, death, and rebirth of the plaza quoted:
Lake Douglas, a New Orleans resident and a long-standing contributor to this magazine, may have said it best 25 years ago in a piece for Architectural Review. “[The piazza] is a wonderful, capricious architectural joke that one cannot appreciate unless one has a sense of humor to match the architects’, one understands the elements of classical architecture and the confused state of contemporary architecture, and one is privy to the customs of New Orleans,”
Douglas wrote. “Perhaps with the Italian Piazza, pop architecture has advanced into elite architecture, and that may be the ultimate architectural joke.”
It’s all been refurbished now, to the tune of one million dollars, and it looks pretty much as when it was unveiled. It sits in a lot between a giant hotel and, I think a parking lot. Not exactly an eye-catching spot. Maybe in better weather there is more life to it, but for me, happening on it by chance and instantly recalling the picture of it on a magazine cover years ago, it was as if Disneyland had just landed in front of my car in New Orleans.