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Rebuilding a Devastated City

After the onslaught by hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans practically ceased to exist. Prominent German architect Albert Speer talked to DW-WORLD about the prospects of rebuilding a destroyed city.


Keep the spirit, lose the slums, Speer says

DW-WORLD: Hurricane Katrina destroyed large portions of New Orleans and flooded some 80 percent of the city. Is it possible -- under such extraordinary circumstances -- to rebuild a city like New Orleans ?

Albert Speer: It's a big problem if you try to rebuild New Orleans as it was. I think the most important thing is that the players have to think far into the future. The old infrastructure of New Orleans was in a very bad condition. Rebuilding a city like New Orleans needs new ideas, a rethinking of what a modern city in the 21st century is, with new, much more modern infrastructure.

Professor Albert Speer Jr., Architekt

Rebuild, just better, Speer says

Will it be possible to salvage any of the infrastructure in New Orleans ?

I am not sure if you can really save parts of the infrastructure. I think you have to modernize all of it.

New Orleans is a city with a rich and colorful history. How could one restore the spirit and the character of the city?

This is a minor problem. You could restore and rebuild parts like the French Quarter -- this was done in Europe after the Second World War, and in other parts of the world. That is only a small part of New Orleans, though. This is a city of about 600,000 people. There, you have to take a mega step into the future, with new constructions, new ways of thinking about (communities), the economy and all other fields.

Hurrikan Katrina Französisches Viertel in New Orleans

Keep the spirit, lose the slums, Speer says

Would it not be simpler and much cheaper to build a completely new city in a spot which would be not so prone to flooding? Most of New Orleans is below sea level.

The precautions taken weren't what they could have been. Partially, it could be a good idea to resettle people in a new location. Still, with a city with this much tradition, I don't think it's a good idea to give it up. Parts of the city could be developed in better locations. But there is also the problem of property ownership. I would say that the old part of the city, the city center, the French Quarter, all these areas have to be rebuilt. But, as you know, New Orleans also had its slum quarters with very low standards. People have to think of not rebuilding these areas.

A US city has never suffered such a massive devastation. Can America learn from other countries, like Germany , that had to rebuild cities that were completely destroyed after World War II?

Learning is a too big word. It is not really comparable because the technical infrastructure in Europe has completely different standards than in the US, and the construction of houses in the US is completely different. Nearly all the houses in the US are built out of wood. The construction is very light, but is easily destroyed by a hurricane.

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