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Researcher, educator, scholar Brent R. Fortenberry, PhD, named Director of Preservation Studies

Headshot of Brent Fortenberry

Historic preservation and vernacular architecture researcher, educator, and scholar Brent R. Fortenberry, PhD, has been appointed as the next Director of Preservation Studies and Christovich Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Tulane School of Architecture.

"There is no better place in the United States to train the next generation of historic preservation leaders," said Fortenberry. "New Orleans is a microcosm of the 21st-century challenges that face historic preservationists, from climate change to racial, social, and heritage justice."

Fortenberry specializes in the vernacular architecture of the British Atlantic world and contemporary issues in historic preservation and cultural heritage. His most recent research focuses on the cities and port towns of the Greater Caribbean, including St. George's, Bermuda, and Natchez, Mississippi, as well as the plantation landscapes of Barbados, Jamaica, and South Carolina.

"I view these projects as equitable and collaborative endeavors to build capacity and provide resources for the broader effort to make the past more durable for the benefit of communities," Fortenberry said. "I am excited to continue to work in these contexts with students from the Master of Preservation program and the School of Architecture." 

Though his position officially begins in summer 2021, Fortenberry has already begun meeting with stakeholders at the school and outlining his vision for the Master of Preservation program – one that he says is three-fold.

"First, continue the program’s internationally regarded excellence in training the next generation of historic preservation leaders through high impact learning in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Greater Caribbean," Fortenberry said. "Second, to push forward historic preservation research particularly related to documenting under-represented narratives and finding creative solutions to the consequences of human-driven climate change and their impact on the historic built environment. Third, continue to provide positive impacts, capacity, and heritage resources to stakeholders through engaged, equitable collaborations in New Orleans, North America, and the world."

"More widely, preservation needs to engage with diverse and under-represented histories and communities more equitably," Fortenberry said. "The National Trust and other organizations have made broad-scale efforts to foster more inclusive and equitable dialogues, and now is the time for preservation education to do the same."

The broader historic preservation profession and academia are also sources of inspiration and focus for Fortenberry. "I view hands-on, project-based learning as a cornerstone of preservation education. What occurs in the classroom must have positive, real-world impacts."

Prior to joining TuSA, Fortenberry was an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University College of Architecture, teaching courses in architectural history and historic preservation. He served as Associate Director of the Center for Heritage Conservation and Chair of the Education Committee for the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Prior to his time at Texas A&M, Fortenberry held faculty and leadership positions at Clemson University and Boston University since 2012. He has authored numerous journal articles, book chapters, and conference presentations on modern vernacular architecture and the application of technology in historic preservation.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from William & Mary, a Master of Arts in Historical Archaeology from University of Bristol, a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Clemson University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Archaeology from Boston University.

Alumni-led firm invited to exhibit at the 2021 Venice Biennale

Artistic line graph comparing the water levels between New Orleans and Venice

(Image courtesy of NANO: Concept diagram comparing the water levels of New Orleans and Venice, Italy.)

Alumni Terri Hogan Dreyer (A *01) and Ian Dreyer (A *01) and their New Orleans-based firm NANO LLC have been invited to participate in the 2021 TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exhibit, a part of the globally recognized La Biennale de Venezia (Venice Biennale) exhibit.

NANO is one of only a few New Orleans-based architectures firm to have ever been invited to participate in the Venice Biennale TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exhibition. Tulane School of Architecture Professor Cordula Roser Gray's firm crgarchitecture co-organized and participated in the same exhibition two years ago. For this year, NANO plans to be committed to its Louisiana cultural roots while embedding rigor and process in our exhibit’s experience.

La Biennale de Venezia exhibit, organized and hosted by the European Cultural Centre in Venice, is a platform for architects from around the world to visually present their personal thoughts and creations about and within architecture. The topic TIME SPACE EXISTENCE gives the possibility for each architect to focus on these fundamental existential questions, creating an extraordinary combination of projects and approaches. By combining projects from architecture studios with works of architecture, photography, and sculpture, the exhibition becomes a dialogue between current developments, ideas, and thoughts in art and architecture, highlighting the philosophical concepts of Time, Space and Existence.

The exhibit design team includes:

  • Terri Hogan Dreyer (A *01) – Master of Architecture
  • Ian Dreyer (A *01) – Master of Architecture
  • Kristine Kobila (A *01) – Master of Architecture
  • Jacob Smiley (A ’20) – Master of Architecture
  • Ana Rebecca Chu (A ’20) – Master of Architecture
  • Eva Poon (A ’23) – Master of Architecture

The firm is fundraising to help cover the cost of travel, shipping and logistics, exhibit materials, and entry expenses. You can learn more and donate at the GoFundMe Page.

Faculty win 2021 ACSA Architectural Education Awards

Logo of the 2021 Architectural Education Awards

Two faculty at Tulane School of Architecture faculty have won 2021 Architectural Education Awards from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).

Each year, ACSA honors architectural educators for exemplary work in areas such as building design, community collaborations, scholarship, and service. Award winners inspire and challenge students, contribute to the profession’s knowledge base, and extend their work beyond the borders of academy into practice and the public sector. The winners will be celebrated virtually at the ACSA 109th Annual Meeting on March 24-26, 2021.

Below are this year's recipients from Tulane School of Architecture:

ACSA Distinguished Professor Award: Ken Schwartz, FAIA, is a Professor of Architecture and Director of Tulane’s Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking.

AIA/ACSA Leadership + Practice Award: Emilie Taylor Welty (A ‘06), is a Professor of Practice and Design-Build Manager at the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design. 

For more information and the individual awards, including award packets, visit the ACSA website.

Faculty win international design competition for urban forest in Madrid

Digital perspective rendering of people walking on a elevated walking path through a watery marsh area with a bridge to a stone cliff in the background

Margarita Jover, Associate Professor of Architecture, and Iñaki Alday, Dean of Tulane School of Architecture, recently won an international design competition through their practice aldayjover architecture and landscape. The firm’s proposal has been chosen as the winner of the Madrid Metropolitan Forest International Contest, Lot 4 "The Southern River Parks." 

A jury made up of 24 experts selected aldayjover's proposal, titled "Manantial Sur, Regenerated Infrastructure," for being a "complete project in all its components that has generated debate around the role of water, forestry and agriculture." 

The southern area of Madrid, along the Manzanares River, is a place of infrastructures that have divided the territory; but it is also a space of opportunities and full of latent resources: hydrological, historical, agricultural, horticultural, archaeological and social to be enhanced and to re-sprout.

aldayjover changed the discourse in the relationship between rivers and cities by designing the first floodable public spaces, conceived as hybrid hydraulic infrastructures, at the end of the 90s. In the Manantial Sur (translated to English from Spanish means "South Spring") of the Metropolitan Forest, aldayjover re-conceptualizes the artificial hydrology of the region, complementing the sources of fresh water from the Sierra de Madrid with the new water springs – the wastewater treatment plants. This concept, initially developed for Delhi (Yamuna River Project, with Pankaj Vir Gupta), will generate a new landscape that manages water and nature, creates microclimates, promotes healthy habits and is the backbone of a more equitable and democratic society based on the right to quality public space. 

Manantial Sur is a proposal for social and ecological growth through "resprouts." The social "resprout" recovers pedestrian connectivity and creates civic centralities. The ecological "resprout" promotes the emergence of biodiversity and a large monumental forest based on better use and management of water resources. The "resprout" of mobility infrastructures comes from understanding them as broad ecological corridors that include slow mobility and creates an agro-forestry and social mosaic. 

Developed from a transdisciplinary perspective, aldayjover in collaboration with ABM Consulting, IRBIS ecological consulting, Paisaje Transversal, Benedicto Gestión de Proyectos, BIS structures and fdTOP has led this proposal in Madrid's green belt, which will become the first major metropolitan intervention to mitigate the effects of climate change in the capital of Spain. A Forest that was born attentive to the increasingly pressing social and ecological challenges, using water as a driving force for planning and design.
 

To learn more about the Metropolitan Forest of Madrid competition and its winners, read the article in Metalocus magazine.

To view the aldayjover design proposal video [in Spanish], click here.

Edson Cabalfin named new Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Headshot of Edson Cabalfin

A Message From Iñaki Alday, Dean and Richard Koch Chair in Architecture: 

I am very excited to announce that we continue making important steps in our work toward equity, diversity and inclusion. The number one priority among the forthcoming recommendations from the school's Task Force on Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (and also signaled by feedback from the school's faculty, staff, and students), was the creation of a dedicated administrative position at the school. After much consideration for this important appointment, I am honored to announce that Edson Cabalfin, PhD, has accepted the position of Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and will begin soon.
 
Among his responsibilities, Edson will mentor BIPOC students at the school and help develop strategies for student support, while also acting as a point of reference for student organizations, staff and faculty concerns and suggestions related to equity, diversity and inclusion. He will work closely with the school's students, faculty and staff to develop strategies in areas of recruitment, support and retention to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the school.
 
Edson is a recent arrival to our school with the benefit of his fresh eyes and an extraordinary background which makes him an excellent candidate to fulfill this new role. As TuSA Director of the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship program, he will be taking on additional critical responsibilities that also offer promising synergies.
 
"Diversity, equity, and inclusion are urgent issues that need to be addressed in academia, professions, and society at large," Edson said. "I am honored and humbled to work towards contributing positive change in the school and the university."
 
Edson’s research in the last two decades is at the intersection of architecture history and theory, gender and sexuality studies, post-colonial theory, cultural studies, public interest design and heritage conservation. He has been focusing his research and publications particularly on marginalized populations who are often ignored in scholarship such as informal settlers in the city, victims of natural disasters, queer communities, and post-colonial societies.
 
Prior to joining TuSA in August, he was on the faculty at the University of Cincinnati (UC), where he taught for seven years the required freshman course for architecture and interior design students called “Human Dimension of Space” which introduced students to the complexity of space as it relates to behavior, culture, gender and sexuality, race, class, power, politics, among others. More importantly, the course advocated for inclusion, equity, and empathy in the field of architecture and design.
 
As Coordinator of the Interior Design program at UC for four years, he served as liaison with students and administration and often acted as mentor especially to minority students. All throughout his teaching in the last 11 years, he has experience working with and mentoring undergraduate and graduate international students from the Middle East, Asia, and South America.
 
During his tenure at UC, he was the representative of the School of Architecture and Interior Design to the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, where he was involved in developing diversity and inclusion programs for students, staff and faculty across the college. He also led several visioning workshops for the committee which produced new equity and inclusion initiatives for the college.
 
We are following the university's recommendation about the naming of the position as EDI, in order to be inclusive of all aspects of equity and diversity (including gender, class, sexuality, ability, age, etc.), while racial equity, diversity and inclusion continues to be in the forefront of our urgencies.
 
Please join me in thanking Edson for accepting this role in addition to his responsibilities in teaching and as SISE Director!

Dozens of Tulane alumni, faculty, students honored at AIA New Orleans Design Awards

Digital rendering of an office building next to a small streetcar adjacent to the AIA New Orleans logo

Dozens of alumni, faculty, and students were honored at the New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Architects 2020 Design Awards Program. 

More than 20 different awards had Tulane School of Architecture affiliations. Two projects, which each won two awards, were created and directed through the school’s design-build programs URBANbuild and the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design. The virtual awards program, hosted by local celebrity Bryan Batt, was organized by a team of AIA members, including Andrew Liles, Adjunct Assistant Lecturer at Tulane School of Architecture.

Each year, the AIA New Orleans chapter celebrates the best of this region’s architecture, recognize achievement in a broad range of architectural work, and inform the public of the breadth and value of architectural practice. 

Below is a listing of the awarded buildings, homes, and projects, including Tulane alumni, faculty and students named in order with which they were announced in the AIA New Orleans awards program. To view the full program recording, click here.


Unbuilt Architecture 
•    Honorable Mention in Unbuilt Architecture: Bayou Community Academy – Gould Evans and Duplantis Design Group, Adjunct Lecturer Jason Butz.  

Divine Detail
•    Honor Award in Divine Detail: Open House – Team A/C, Assistant Professors Carrie Norman and Adam Modesitt, as well as Tulane School of Architecture students and graduates and non-Tulane students Leah Bohatch (A ’23), Rachel Bennett (A ’23), Sara Bhatia (A ’21), Adrian Evans (A *20), Riley Lacalli (A *19), Seth Laskin (A ’23), Willa Richards (daughter of Sam Richards), Seneca Gray (A *20), and Ryan Shabaan (A ’20). 

Interior Architecture
•    Award of Merit in Interior Architecture: Keesler Federal Credit Union – Colectivo, Professor of Practice Emilie Taylor Welty (A *06), Seth Welty (A ’08), Matthew Raybon (A ’17).
•    Honor Award for Interior Architecture: Maison de la Luz – EskewDumezRipple, Max Katz (A ’16). 

Residential Design
•    Honorable Mention in Residential Design: URBANbuild 14 – BILD design LLC, Professor of Practice Byron Mouton and Tulane School of Architecture students and graduates Rene Duplantier (A *19), Keristen Edwards (A ’20, MSRED *20), Kalyn Faller (A *20), Gian-Carol Hernandez-San Martin (A ’20), Nicholas Kallman (A ’19, A ’21), Mateus Klabin (A ’20), Ashley Libys (A *19), William McCollum (A *19, MSRED *19), Katelin Morgan (A *19, MSRED *19), Emmanuel Rotich (A ’19, MSRED *20), Ana Sandoval Aguilar (A ’19), Julia Scholl (A ’20), Wei Xiao (A *19), Yuang Zhao (A *19), Bruna Aoki (A *18), Michelle Barrett (A *19).

Historic Preservation 
•    Award of Merit in Historic Preservation, Restoration, and Adaptive Reuse: Hotel Peter + Paul – studioWTA, Wayne Troyer (A ’83), Tracie Ashe (A ’02), Natan Diacon-Furtado (A *14), Sergio Padilla (A ’03, A *04), Adjunct Lecturer Toni DiMaggio (A ’03), Alyce Deshotels (A *14), Ray Croft (A *14), Elizabeth Simpson (A *12).
•    Honor Award for Historic Preservation, Restoration and Adaptive Reuse: The Schoolhouse – Rome Office, Mollie Burke (A ’11) and Gustavo Rodas (A ’16).

Architecture 
•    Honorable Mention in Architecture – Nora Navra Library – Manning Architects, Dominic Willard (A ’03) and Michelle Carroll-Barr (A *14). 
•    Honorable Mention in Architecture: Groundwork Earth Lab – Tulane's Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, Assistant Professor Adam Modesitt, Professor of Practice Emilie Taylor Welty (A *06), Adjunct Lecturer Nick Jenisch (A ’03), and Tulane School of Architecture then-students Michelle Barrett (A *19), Kay Curtis (A ’19), Dana Elliot (A *19), Clayton Hakes (A ’19), Jacqueline Esmay (A ’19), Jared Faske (A ’19), Dylan Goldweit-Denton (A ’19), Emily Kanner (A ’19), Bryn E. Koeppel (A ’19), Riley Lacalli (A *19), Caroline LaFleche (A ’19), Collin Moosbrugger (A ’19), Margaret Swinford (A ’19), Max Warshaw (A *19, MSRED *19).
•    Award of Merit for Architecture: Warehouse District Offices – Trapolin-Peer Architects, Peter Trapolin (A ’77).
•    Award of Merit for Architecture: Talise Rainwater Catchment and Filtration System – Elizabeth Chen, Elizabeth Chen (A ’06).
•    Honor Award in Architecture: Sculpture Pavilion – Lee Ledbetter & Associates, Sara Harper (A *17).
•    Honor Award in Architecture: Rouquette Library – VergesRome Architects, APAC, Steven H. Rome (B *17) and Scott Andrews (B ’85). 

People’s Choice
•    People’s Choice Award: URBANbuild 14 – BILD design LLC, Professor of Practice Byron Mouton and Tulane School of Architecture students and graduates (listed in previous award entry).


Excellence in Sustainability
•    USGBC Award for Excellence in Sustainability: Groundwork Earth Lab – Tulane's Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, Assistant Professor Adam Modesitt, Professor of Practice Emilie Taylor Welty, Adjunct Lecturer Nick Jenisch, and Tulane School of Architecture students and graduates (listed in previous award entry). 
•    USGBC Award for Excellence in Sustainability: Talise Rainwater Catchment and Filtration System – Elizabeth Chen, Elizabeth Chen (A ’06).

Industry
•    Industry Award for Construction: Avenue Family Dentistry – Perrier Esquerre Contractors and Scairono Martinez Architects, Barry Scairono (A ’81)
•    Industry Award for Construction: Higgins Hotel and Conference Center – Palmisano and Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, Scott Evans (A *98)
•    Industry Award for Landscape: The Standard – Spackman Mossop Michaels and Morris Adjmi Architects, Morris Adjmi (A ’83).

Emerging Professionals
•    EP Associate Award: Bryan Bradshaw (A *17)
•    Young Architect Award: Julie Babin (A ’06)
 
 

Sukkah in the age of coronavirus

Side view of a small open-air, wood-carved pavilion with curved walls

Every year, for the past 11 years, students in the Tulane School of Architecture have built a sukkah, an open-air hut-like structure under which Jews celebrate Sukkot, a week-long fall harvest festival.

In partnership with Tulane Hillel, students typically build the sukkah in Pocket Park, making it a convenient dining venue for those grabbing lunch from the LBC, the Commons or a nearby food truck.

This year, however, the Sukkah Build Project, dubbed Sukkah 12, presented new challenges, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our goals were very specific this year,” said Lizzie Bateman, a fifth-year architecture student. “We aimed to create a Sukkah which is COVID-19-conscious and allows for social distancing. This has called for a reimagining of the typical Sukkah typology. Because this was also a design build during COVID-19, our design had to go up quickly, and the students constructing it couldn’t be exposed to one another.”

The team of seven achieved its goal on Oct. 1. They did it quickly and masterfully, in part, because they did much of the work ahead of time, including designing and building pre-fabricated walls in the School of Architecture’s Millhaus, one of the school's Fabrication Labs. The finished product is made of pine and measures 10.5 feet by 12 feet. It has built-in seats that allow four people to sit socially distanced, and it has two walls instead of the traditional three to facilitate safe passage.

Seth Laskin, a junior who has been participating in the project since he was a freshman and served as its leader this year, said the design build was especially gratifying, given the added the challenges surrounding it.

“So much goes into planning beyond what is seen in the final product, from design meetings, to material collection, budget planning, and coordination with the TU Hillel,” Laskin said.  

The team’s goal, he said, was to produce something that reflects the brilliance of Tulane’s architecture students. “The team as a whole is truly so talented, and this project was an amazing opportunity for our collective opinions and skills to be demonstrated.”

Bateman agreed. "Our hope was for people to enjoy the space and feel safe while doing so," she said. "We think it works really well in capturing people's attention and making the interior space exciting and inviting."

View the Sukkah 12 photo gallery here.

Story by Barri Bronston / Tulane University

Tulane becomes first U.S. institution to sign pledge for climate action

Logo for U.S. Architects Declare Climate, Justice, and Biodiversity Emergency

In September 2020, Tulane School of Architecture became the first U.S. institution to sign on to an international pledge for climate action, followed by two other institutions shortly thereafter.

In the summer of 2020, U.S.-based practices took action and signed on to join the international pledge. With the U.S. Architects Declare movement growing since May and over 284 signatures added to the list, three architecture institutions have signed on to the movement so far, according to an Oct. 7 story in Archinect.

Tulane School of Architecture, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture are the first architecture programs to sign on. A movement initially starting in May 2019 in the U.K., firms and studios worldwide have pledged their efforts to fight climate change and biodiversity issues. 

U.S. Architects Declare is led by a group of volunteer architects and designers throughout the country. Their site states, "All built-environment/construction-industry professionals are welcome to join us whether you've signed the declaration or not (including grads, interior designers, students, engineers, building-designers, builders, engineers, etc.)"

Despite 2020 being an extremely challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social and political unrest happening across the country, architecture institutions have branched out to propel their efforts towards fighting climate change.

Learn more at us.architectsdeclare.com.

Historic preservation alumnus awarded National Park Service fellowship

Headshot of Christopher Cody

Tulane School of Architecture alumnus Christopher Cody (MPS '14) was recently awarded an inaugural fellowship from the National Park Service, in partnership with Preservation Maryland. The Harrison Goodall Preservation Fellowship will support Cody’s work to reform demolition-by-neglect practices across Arizona. Cody is one of three fellows to receive the new award, which aims to promote innovation and professional growth in the field of historic preservation.

Cody graduated with a Master’s of Preservation Studies in 2014 from Tulane School of Architecture and is now Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer in Phoenix, AZ. When he began his job in Arizona, Cody traveled the state extensively and heard from preservationists and community leaders nearly everywhere that demolition of historic structures due to neglect was their biggest challenge. 

“Having studied preservation in New Orleans and worked in Charleston, SC, both communities with very strong preservation ethics, I know how important saving historic buildings is to a community's sense of place and identity,” Cody said. “And I know that my project has the potential to help Arizona's cities and towns on many levels.”

Demolition by neglect occurs when historic structures are threatened by absent owners who do not provide necessary maintenance to keep the property stable, thus requiring demolition. Many of these structures are within historic downtown areas, and Cody plans to research legal barriers and develop model ordinances for use across the state of Arizona, as well as create a legislative advocacy plan if state laws require modification. Through his fellowship, Cody will also receive expert guidance from a mentor – Will Cook, an attorney with Cultural Heritage Partners LLP and a nationally recognized expert in historic preservation law concerning demolition-by-neglect ordinances.

Read more about the inaugural Harrison Goodall Preservation Fellowship by the National Park Service, in partnership with Preservation Maryland.
 

Architecture graduate student pens Places Journal essay on historic Murs à Pêches orchards

A man standing in an overgrown urban garden and peach orchard

Tulane architecture graduate student Théa Spring recently completed the inaugural Places Journal Summer Writing + Editing Workshop. Spring was one of 26 students to participate in an immersive Zoom-based course taught by Places editors this summer and included lectures, group discussions, one-on-one coaching and peer-to-peer exchange. During the session and afterwards, students worked closely with the editors to hone their writing skills in the realm of rigorous and accessible public scholarship, and each produced a brief essay on the theme of “Architecture, Urbanism, Pandemics.”

Spring's essay, titled "Coloring the Murs á Pêches," explores the history of the Murs à Pêches, a once vast peach orchard in Montreuil, Paris, France. Beginning with its origins in 1916 to present day August 2020, the orchard has had significant cultural, economic, and spatial influences on the neighborhood and city, as well as efforts to restore the area. Spring also researched the history of Fruits Défendus Association, part of the Fédération MAP, a group of organizations that joined forces in 1994 to defend the Murs à Pêches from the encroachment of concrete. Today, 30 of the orchard's 300 hectares remain, with only eight-and-a-half hectares protected as horticultural landscape heritage.

"Some of the most fascinating parts of the workshop took place during discussions on the importance of public scholarship, particularly in the realm of architecture, landscape, and urbanism," Spring said. "In contrast and complement to academic writing, public scholarship such as the works published by Places Journal are always accessible to be read by anyone, regardless of their field and budget (its entire archive is free to explore). I find this to be a very important and pertinent standard in a discipline flooded with a rather limited vocabulary that is often disconnected to human experience. The quote in my article by the French writer Georges Perec is perhaps a wink to that: he has described spaces with few words in a way most graphics never could."

Spring said two elements drove her to write this piece: the reader could be anyone and there will only be a reader, or another potential individual to discuss with if the writing inspires it.

"I hope to continue clarifying my position through writing... at least until the day I manage to build something that speaks for itself (though realistically, such an event would probably require... more writing)," Spring said. 

Below is an excerpt from "Coloring the Murs á Pêches" by Théa Spring in Places Journal.

...

From above, long rectangular lots striate the landscape. Their origins date to the mid 17th century, when the use of walls as an agricultural tool was first developed.1 Their materials were available on site: rock, clay, and gypsum, more commonly known as plaster of Paris. Built up to an elevation of three meters, the longer edges of the lot were positioned north to south and spaced about twelve meters apart to receive maximum sun exposure. By shielding winds and stocking heat, the plots between these walls enjoyed a microclimate eight to ten degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding area. First used to grow grapes, they soon welcomed an exotic fruit adored in royal courts and until then only cultivated in the south of France: "la pêche," the peach.

The land was productive, but also experimental. As Parisian demand for fruits and vegetables increased, a complex system was developed by the Montreuillois combining horticulture, viticulture, and arboriculture. By selling their goods directly in central markets, producers were able to use buying trends to inform the development of new methods and varieties. Peaches, sold profitably to the bourgeoisie, often became the subject of and fuel for such inventions. Their high maintenance was anthropomorphized; trees were “dressed” and “refreshed,” fruits were “cleaned” of their fuzz with a novel rotating brush, and even protected with revolvers set to detonate against garden intruders through a system of strings. Like secret lovers, new varieties were given erotic names such as "Le Téton de Vénus," the Nipple of Venus, or "La Grosse Mignonne," the Fat Cutie. By the end of the 18th century, the area of the Murs à Pêches reached its apogee with over 300 hectares of walled lots — one-third of Montreuil.

...

Read more about the inaugural Places Journal Summer Writing + Editing Workshop.

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