Far away from the December chills of southern Scandinavia, I find myself in a corner of New Orleans trying to make sense of it all. Nestling on the northern banks of the magnificent Mississippi River, the community of Bywater, with its distinctive architectural Creole heritage could not be more different from its noisy neighbor, the French Quarter. As the boozy Bourbon Street flirts with tourists visiting “The Big Easy”, Bywater’s local residents sitting on their porches of the famous shotgun semis, greet passers-by with that natural southern warmth and hospitality. The contrast could not be more startling.
Bywater’s oak-lined thoroughfares of Dauphine, Royal and Chartres reveal that this neighborhood is slowly transforming following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrine in 2005. Bywater, thankfully escaped the worst of the severe flooding following the hurricane and although it took sometime to re-build confidence in investing in a home or a business in such a volatile geographic location, urban development is in progress. Having recently visited Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, Green Point and Bushwick, the issues of urban development, gentrification and displacement are naturally a concern for Bywater’s local residents. However, enterprises such as Bywater Bakery, Satsuma Cafe and Pizza Delicious are clearly giving Bywater’s locals and visitors an interesting alternative.
As with my home town of Copenhagen, New Orleans is in the process of transforming its waterfront, connecting the city to the Mississippi and the Crescent Park project in Bywater is a prime example of this. The 80.000m² redevelopment project, a collaboration between the landscape architects, Hargreaves Associates and the locally based studio, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, visually connects Bywater with central New Orleans. Slowly, but surely, new roots are being sown and Bywater with its strong music and architecture heritage is redefining itself.
Content & Images: Phillip Mills