New Orleans is a city under construction. But unlike New York, the constant construction tape and orange cones rarely yield large spectacle, rather they are the backdrop for daily life. For some of us it might be hard to sift out the ways in which our urban reality differs from most, whereas for others there is a constant awareness of this city’s effect. For me there is a certain closeness here that I have not felt anywhere else, a scale change that makes the whole town seem just that; small. From my bedroom I can hear passing ships on the Mississippi, even closer is the occasional streetcar screech, and often there are the weeks of pile driving for some new shotgun. On a typical bike ride to school I pass three houses being constructed, one altered, and a school renovation, but rather than on the other side of a construction site wall these projects are rarely confined. The process feels informal and beyond casual, almost intimate. I can see not only inside a half-finished building, but can interact with its carpenters on the street. The never-ending road construction has produced a constantly shifting boundary, rerouting cars, diverging my route until I can squeeze through, or only slowing my walking pace while I climb over the barrier. Inside this linear gash a multitude of construction material is left unattended at all hours, only secured through its unwieldy weight and size. The inefficient, intimate, and incidental process of making and remaking the city invigorates through its brash haptic nature.
Here the uneven roads and unfinished paving precludes sooth biking, but also makes for slower cars; thus safer streets. A city too clean makes for an uncomfortable situation in which any disturbance seems deviant. But here, the constant state of instability lends itself to an attitude of impromptu events and casual interaction. What other city would be okay with hundreds of plastic beads dotting its urban forest if it didn’t already have more than enough infrastructural problems?