Portland State professor L. Rudolph Barton is no stranger to the Big Easy. He completed his undergrad education in New Orleans and went on to do research with the city afterwards. Being a past local, Barton wanted to figure out a way to help rebuild the city. “Every city needs an infrastructure of institutions like libraries, schools and churches. That’s one of the difficult things to rebuild after devastation,” Barton said.
Portland State professor L. Rudolph Barton is no stranger to the Big Easy. He completed his undergrad education in New Orleans and went on to do research with the city afterwards.
Being a past local, Barton wanted to figure out a way to help rebuild the city.
“Every city needs an infrastructure of institutions like libraries, schools and churches. That’s one of the difficult things to rebuild after devastation,” Barton said.
Barton, along with 12 Portland State architecture students, made the journey to New Orleans this June, where they worked to help rebuild an area still very much in ruins.
The students, led by Barton, toured the damaged city to gain a firsthand perspective of a structural environment quite different from Portland.
“Well, this is the second trip we’ve made to New Orleans to give our architecture students exposure, and to provide some volunteer service so that the city can recover,” Barton said.
He made various connections through his past contacts, giving many PSU students the opportunity to do volunteer work during last year’s spring break.
Students worked to design small storefront libraries to help rebuild the city’s civic infrastructure. The 12 students proposed designs in the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States, Faubourg Treme.
Altogether the project took three weeks time and was finished during the first phase of summer school. Not only was the goal to give their time and resources to the New Orleans community, but to awaken the architectural students to a new and different culture.
“One thing is to take PSU students outside the Portland bubble and expose them to different cities and cultures and different architectural labs. Give the students opportunity to provide preliminary design services to the city of New Orleans,” Barton said.
By working closely with librarians and the community, the students got a feel for how they should design four different sites with new buildings and remodeled infrastructures.
Barton and his students want to help rebuild communities as well as libraries.
With half of the population of New Orleans displaced, homes remain a high priority, but Barton conveyed that the community’s social structure was also important in rebuilding the city.
Because of the success of the trip, students are anticipating returning next summer. However, this will be dependent on whether students can raise the funds needed for another visit.
This summer students funded half of the costs, with the remaining costs funded through donations given to the project by architectural firms around Portland.
“If we can continue to get the contributions, we can try to do the trip next year. A lot of students want to go on a future trip,” Barton said.
Although PSU students have made an impact on the New Orleans community there is still much to be done. With this past trip Barton hopes to show that the students of Portland State can be utilized and appreciated for it. New Orleans is undergoing slow progress with every aspect of the city needing tremendous help.
“It’s painful to see the city in a state of ruin. I’m just trying to give back a little bit and we’ve got expertise in Portland that can help the city rebuild,” Barton said. “It’s what we’re trying to do a little bit at a time.”