Piazza D’ Italia

Modernism at the French Quarter – Piazza D’ Italia

Piazza d Italia designed by Charles Moore is one of the most iconic examples showing Postmodern Architecture, Art Deco where it offers a memorial and a public space. This project surfaced around the 1950s and 1960s, disagreeing with the formal and functional designs of modernism, thus its style is more focused on its aesthetic purpose instead of its function. This project is more of an urban public plaza. The location ultimately chosen for the project, a city block sited in the semi-derelict upriver edge of downtown four blocks from the canal street and the edge of the French Quarter and three blocks from the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Modernism at the French Quarter - Piazza D’ Italia
Piazza D’ Italia

Characteristics

  • Pastel coloured columns each representing the different classical orders.
  • Water streams down the columns from the stainless-steel capitals of the front four colonnades into the pool and flows around the eighty-foot-long contoured island.
  • Neon lighting outlines on the arches and column.
  • Bell tower arranged in curving formation around the fountain.
  • Stainless steel lonic volutes.
  • Streams of water flowing down columns to suggest fluting are a take off on classical style.
  • Medallions shaped like Moore’s head spout water.
  • The layers of structures brightly coloured ,trimmed in neon and metallics, as well as  ornamented with various classical orders.
  • The paved surface of the plaza is also embellished and textured appropriately.
  • Play of light and shadow on the surface of the plaza.
  • The views through the multiple various and unique openings display and create a complex spatial experience as well as an interaction for users moving through the colonnades.
  • Uplighting and neon accents animate the space at night.
  • A convincing example of Eclecticism.
Modernism at the French Quarter - Piazza D’ Italia
Postmodern Architecture

Also Read: Mahatma Gandhi Labor Institute – by B. V. Doshi

Fountain at Piazza D’ Italia

The fountain, built as a tribute to thousands of Italian immigrants in New Orleans. It was located in the middle of the city block. It was accessed in two directions that is via a tapering, a keyhole-shaped passage extending from Poydras street. Also, through an arched opening in the clock tower sited where Commerce street terminates at Lafayette street.  The fountain is in the shape of the Italian peninsula. The fountain and its surrounding colonnades playfully appropriated classical forms and orders, executing them in modern materials that are stainless steel and neon lights. There are six concentric colonnades out of which five classical orders of architecture are in proper order with the proper capitals and there’s a sixth stylized in front, the red one and called the Delicatessen order which closely looks like ironic order or Doric order.

Modernism at the French Quarter - Piazza D’ Italia
Ariel view of Piazza D’ Italia

Representation

Basically, Moore’s representation showing through symbols of culture and heritage has spatialized in the piazza in order to become a landscape. Henceforth it gives rise to a unique decoration in the plaza where he has taken the elements from the 21st-century style by fusing it with and using new modern material which also enhances the modern contemporary style. This leads the users of the space to visually accept the design more openly than follow the ancient carvings as it is.

Site Plan

Also Read The Aqua tower, dynamic and bracketed, by Studio Gang.

Materials of Piazza D’ Italia

  • The fountain is made by the layering of black and white stone.
  • The circular plaza has a pattern of radiating cobblestone and granite, alternating from black to white, referencing Italian piazzas (city square).
  • The plaza is the structure referencing Roman forums, with the yellow, ochre, and red colonnades and arched doorways ornamented with Latin script.
  • A yellow bell tower on the perimeter of the circular plaza, which provides access from the street.
  • The major part of the construction is done in RCC.
  • More than half of the circular plaza is a radiating pattern of cobblestone and bands of granite pavers, referencing an Italian piazza.

Criticism

Moore’s agenda for Postmodernism in architecture was inclusive and democratic. The Piazza d’ Italia struggled as an urban space almost from the moment of its completion in 1978. The Lykes center has precedes the Piazza’s construction for several years as no public or private funding secures to pay for the further redevelopment of the block. It portrays as soon the completion of Piazza, it started facing a lot of problems and issues as the surrounding area remained underdeveloped, very few people come to visit as well as the absence of pedestrian traffic combined with the Piazza’s lack of shade and its rough cobblestone paving made the space uninviting.

The harsh climate in New Orleans, lead to the degrading of the inexpensive material for the construction. Thus this resulted in the denial of proposed renovations to adjacent buildings. Also, the city neglected its responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the water system. By the late 1980s, the Piazza had disintegrated; the Postmodern icon became another piece of the neglected urban fabric and the first Postmodern ruin. This postmodern piece of the century has suffered from decades of neglect as well as it failed to spark the hoped-for revitalization of downtown New Orleans.

Different forms used in Piazza D’ Italia

Restoration

  • In 2002, announcement to convert the by-then vacant Lykes Center adjacent to the Piazza into a Loews Hotel.
  • In 2004, the fountain restores to operation, although the removal of badly deteriorated campanile on the site’s extreme periphery.
  • The Piazza design’s original vision of an urban “surprise plaza” remains only partially fulfilled.

However, the restoration shows in way and method that less originates to the ideally intended. Therefore, the Piazza is a colorful and cheerful oasis in the dense city grid, leased from the City and maintained by the adjacent Loew’s Hotel. Thus now it is fenced and gated and open to the public only periodically. For years the ownership of Piazza and its surrounding surface parking lots is by the Piazza d’Italia Development Corporation. In 2013, the entity merges with the Canal Street Development Corporation (CSDC). Similarly, it merges into the New Orleans Building Corporation (NOBC) in December 2016

As of now, Piazza D’ Italia was fully restored. This was to continue the architecture motion to please members of the public for decades more to come. Phase I of the renovations has been completed. The second phase was under construction and completed by the end of 2018. This phase restores every element of the fountain that needs repair or replacement. Therefore its full original conception is restored. The surrounding, city-owned surface parking lots remain undeveloped.

Also Read: The Museum of Future, by Killa Designs in Dubai-UAE

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