Open Letter to AIA New Orleans


Friday, March 30, 2018

I’m currently on a plane to DC, looking forward to spending some time with my daughter at studying at Georgetown, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to jot down some thoughts about the Design Awards last night and share a toast to our organization, the members, and all of our generous supporters.


During his opening remarks our Jury Chair quoted my second-favorite line comparing New Orleans to Ohio, from Tennessee Williams: “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”


My number one favorite quote comparing New Orleans to the Buckeye State comes from a journalist sent to New Orleans from Cincinnati in the 1880s named Lafcadio Hearn.


Not long after he was here, he wrote back to his editor: “Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that soon it will only be a study for archaeologists. Its’ condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live in New Orleans in sackcloth and ashes, than to own the whole state of Ohio.”


Hearn never went back to Ohio, and his rapturous writing helped popularize a romantic image of New Orleans as a bewitching place of elegant decay that persists to this day.


But there’s a deeper truth that our community of designers knows, and that is that our city has always been at her most alive and most vital in the expression of her very name: NEW Orleans. Bienville knew it- this place might be old, but it thrives on the new.


Last night was a beautiful gathering of the people most dedicated to asserting the NEW in New Orleans, and celebrated their best recent efforts to advance this notion.


Between AIA New Orleans and the New Orleans Architecture Foundation, we have two great vehicles to celebrate and promote the NEW Orleans we know, a city as alive as it has ever been and still pretty light on her feet for being 300.


As long as we are able, Lettermans will continue to do everything we can to enable and amplify the design community’s voice in the community.


And like Lafcadio Hearn over a century ago, I absolutely believe it’s better to live in New Orleans than to own all of Ohio. Thanks to everyone working every day to make this a better place to live.


I said at the start of this note that I would offer a toast, so here’s to sackcloth and ashes.


Hoping to drink with you all soon,

Chuck Perret