Built in the 1720s, New Orleans, Louisiana is an old city with crumbling streets, historic architecture, and tiny lots. The unique quality about Nola, despite the city’s obvious wear, is the sense of community culturally embedded into the daily life of its citizens, revolving around eating, drinking, and otherwise taking it easy. However, as the murder rate in Nola was ten times the national average in 2010 and 193 murders in 2012, this sense of community does not always translate into safe areas for residents.
Landscape architects and urban planners are working together to create a just city; one with lighted streets, parks, event spaces, and greater walkability between neighborhoods and commercial development. Architects work to create sustainable homes in beautiful neighborhoods, which will ultimately give residents a sense of pride and place. In New Orleans there is a sense of pride in the neighbor "hoods." And, as part of the deeply rooted culture, residents participate in a number of community events, both large and small scale, such as Mardi Gras, Second Lines, birthday parties, and general get-togethers.
Unfortunately, this sense of community could not prevent the shooting of nineteen people at the Mother’s Day Parade in May 2013. Nor could it have stopped four people from being shot on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras the same year. Although Second Lines originated from benevolent community based organizations, the reality is that they cannot always protect the community they serve. Crime is always around the corner, you just hope it doesn't happen to you.
While it is obvious there is not a single, solitary solution to help rid the city of such crimes, a strong community, social infrastructure, and organized planners are all needed to help the city gain a footing first, before work can be done on these issues. A social infrastructure needs to be in place to support the physical infrastructure. It is a shame to see such amazing cultural events broken down by violence. However, it is well known that we are a resilient city with a close-knit community and people full of compassion.
This is just one example of violence from among many across the world. What problems do other cities face? How does the physical environment, along with cultural activity, work together to help solve or intensify these problems?
Credits: Images by Allyson McAbee. Data linked to sources.