Learning from New Orleans

Even the water meters are pretty

Last month I spent a magical three days in the Big Easy to host the last of our 2012 GOOD Ideas for Cities events (in this country, that is). And with the latest news (on the anniversary of Katrina, no less), New Orleans is in my thoughts.

Canal Street

I hadn’t been there for eight years, and while I’d never forget how incredibly special this city is, due to the changes we’d both been through in the last few years, I could really look upon it with a new perspective.

Bourbon Street, 4pm

There is of course, this side of New Orleans, the only side that most people see—through the rim of a three-foot-tall plastic cup dangling from a beaded chain.

Bourbon Street sign

The frozen drink machines are my favorite

(Not that I’m judging. I was fantasizing about walking around the city with to-go vats of “Blue Crack” around my neck. But I had work to do.)

The colors are amazing

But there’s also this side. The people who actually live and work there to make New Orleans an even more magical place.

Candy Chang

In fact, some really amazing individuals and companies have made New Orleans their home over the last few years. I was absolutely floored by all the creative, enthusiastic people I met on my trip. Like the awesome Candy Chang, who does all sorts of incredible projects around community and public space. And the guys at Neighborland, an awesome new community engagement start up that hosted our NOLA event.


As I walked from neighborhood to neighborhood in the sultry summer heat, I decided that LA had a lot to learn from the colorful, laid back charm of NOLA.

Salmon house

Of course I was most pleased by the propensity for using bright colors.

Loved the planters and trees

The way it’s practically mandated that every surface be exploding with flora.

Dauphine Street


Every porch is a chance to make a statement.



And little flickering gaslamps add just the right amount of ambiance.

Popular color combo

Beaded bannister

I mean, how can you not love a city that uses beads as home decoration year-round?

Beads as decor


Clawfoot planters

The DIY, make-do-with-what-you-have spirit was apparent on every corner.


As was the pride in welcoming you to each neighborhood. In fact, I don’t think I passed a single person who didn’t say hello or ask how I was doing.

Calle D Borbon

And the streetsigns, ah, the streetsigns.

Frenchmen Street

There’s plenty to see in New Orleans, even underfoot.

My thoughts are with them this week.

More NOLA photos.

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