World Trade Center threatened in New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana. Another mid-century modern building may be demolished in the Crescent City. Edward Durell Stone’s World Trade Center, built as the International Trade Mart, has been under threat since the mid-1990s. Begun in 1959 and partially occupied by 1966, the ITM set the standard for other such structures worldwide. Designed to promote foreign commerce through the Port of New Orleans, the ITM was home to the trade organization, the Dock Board, stevedores, international consulates, shipping companies, a women’s clinic, modistes and an art gallery.

Stone and associate architect Robert Lee Hall conceived the 33-story building with nautical associations, an enormous compass and an anchor to a landscaped plaza adjacent to the Mississippi River. Developers hoped that New Orleans would become the modern world’s Damascus and Stone aligned the structure’s four wings with the cardinal directions.  Situated atop 600 tension piles, the reinforced concrete structure afforded 4 wings of leasable space on each of the office floors. Solid concrete panels alternated with floor-to-ceiling windows that provided expansive views of the city surpassed only by the penthouse vista. Macton Machinery Company -- maker of the 1964 New York World’s Fair “Tower of Light” -- fabricated the revolving penthouse cocktail lounge that visually linked the Mississippi to Lake Pontchartrain.

When asked about the building, Hicks Stone, Edward Durell Stone's son and author of the book Edward Durell Stone: A Son's Untold Story of a Legendary Architect stated, "Father’s building is a serene and elegant presence on the New Orleans skyline. Its vertical lines are emblematic of his 1960s era work. A look at any image of the surrounding buildings quickly reveals a dizzying array of clumsy and charmless contemporary high-rises. The only other building that stands out as a project of distinction is Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s One Shell Square, but even that has a sterile and anonymous quality to it. If they demolish Father’s building, they are destroying the best contemporary high-rise that they have. Instead of tearing it down, the owners should expend some effort into restoring and improving it."

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently proclaimed the site the “most important piece of property in the city” and announced his interest in replacing the building with a monumental attraction akin to the Gateway Arch.  The city is now considering three proposals to redevelop the site and should make a decision later this summer. Follow Docomomo US on Facebook to receive updates about the building.

Photograph:  May 2013
See:  Bruce Eggler. “Decision on New Orleans World Trade developer not expected until July.” The Times-Picayune (30 April 2013). As viewed 18 May 2013 at: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/04/decision_on_world.html#incart_river

 

 

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