Emergency Communities-Part 6: Community Memory and Conclusion

Part 6. Community Memory


Artwork on a Rio de Janeiro Favela The French Photographer JR, shown on TED[ii]

One instrument in the delicate business of helping people re-create connections to a new environment is to inform and remind people of how life worked in the pre-disaster times. People in these new communities will need a collective memory of what was done in older cities. New Orleans may never be the way it was, but we can bring back elements that made it great. It was a walking city, filled with music and musicians. Harry Connick, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis helped raise money to bring back the old musicians who had scattered. They built a “Musicians Village”, houses with front porches for people to gather and play and listen to music. [i] This might even be better than the way it was, but it was the memory of New Orleans that caused it to happen. What do we value in cities like New Orleans that we can replicate in our new communities? How do we reconcile the demands of rapid development with the values inherited from the past?  There may be generations growing up who have never had the experience of living in a vital walkable city.

Above all, these new communities should be connected to the past as well as the larger agglomeration we call the city.            


Architects, planners and designers can have a central role in this continuous process of healing and improving the environment in the aftermath of catastrophe.   They can collaborate with other groups, including the survivors of these events, to create new solutions. Together we can connect new communities to the rest of the city and to its past history. We must believe that new and better cities can be built in the future.

[ii] The French Photographer JR, shown on TED



One thought on “Emergency Communities-Part 6: Community Memory and Conclusion

  1. Robert, you propose some very interesting concepts in your series. You’re right that there are some things we currently do, such as ‘mid term’ sheltering with fabricated structures (FEMA), which meet a need but in the end seem to be a waste of resources – there must be a better way….

    The sociological aspect of these types of communities is significant as many people will want to go back to their own homes and land, despite the physical condition it may be left in. Of course any preplanning of such communities should be as disaster resistant as possible.

    So many directions this can go in… very thought provoking!

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