New Orleans canals europe Amsterdam Venice
September 2, 2005 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Learning from Europe: Rebuilding New Orleans Into the New Amsterdam/Venice of the Gulf. Canals ,built in and around parts of New Orleans, could be an engineering and asthetic marvel. It would also and provide testament to the beauty,soul,and rebirth of this great city and people. Living with the sea is a science that places like the Netherlands have mastered over the years. Before we What would Frederick Law Olmsted do?
posted by thedailygrowl (23 comments total)
Amsterdam and venice do not have huricanes.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on September 2, 2005

New Orleans already had canals.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:05 PM on September 2, 2005

How dare you try to be constructive at a time like this.
posted by darukaru at 1:06 PM on September 2, 2005

Isn't Venice sinking?
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:07 PM on September 2, 2005

this is an opportunity, but without leadership and vision, will be squandered. I'm betting we don't even call in the Dutch to help.
posted by amberglow at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2005

Your main link at has changed - it looks like you need a permalink to the entry on canals.

And yes, Venice is not really a great example, as the guy even admits in his piece.
posted by pitchblende at 1:11 PM on September 2, 2005

Here's a link to the canal piece, but judging from the URL it isn't permanent, so who knows how long it will last.
posted by OmieWise at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2005

OmieWise thanks for posting the correct link. In a way we are kind of dealing with doomed cities, Venice, New Orleans etc.
But as long as it lasts lets just hope they rebuild it into something nice, not some awful expediant clusterfuck.
posted by thedailygrowl at 1:18 PM on September 2, 2005

clusterfuck is the word of the week! But yeah, I hope they can really put some minds together for the reconstruction of the place.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:24 PM on September 2, 2005

Whatever for New New Orleans takes, I certainly hope it involves lots of suburbs, strip malls, and no public transit.
posted by keswick at 2:11 PM on September 2, 2005

The area involved is way too large, and the weather way to violent for either Venice or the Netherlands to be much of an example.

Which doesn't mean some serious engineering couldn't help the place. If only there would be some honesty as to the pricetag.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:15 PM on September 2, 2005

Whatever for New New Orleans takes, I certainly hope it involves lots of suburbs, strip malls, and no public transit.

You mean like Metarie and Kenner, except larger? Oh joy!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:19 PM on September 2, 2005

Gah, not only does the Venice link not work from here, it doesn't work from the host site either. Perhaps in The Future, our canal-loving overlords also provide a working, stable interweb?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:23 PM on September 2, 2005

One thing is certain: about 100,000 poor and disadvantaged
residents of New Orleans are NEVER going to be seen there
again. The ticket for re-admission into the New New Orleans
will be money, and the people who are there now don't have
any. It's "urban renewal" as peformed by an Act of God and
laissez faire evacuation.
I expect it will be similar to what appears to be happening
in Sri Lanka, in the wake (sorry) of the tsunami.
posted by the Real Dan at 2:24 PM on September 2, 2005

Most important difference: Alligators.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:26 PM on September 2, 2005

It has been little-noted that (many of) the pumps that the Dutch use were developed by A. Baldwin Wood for use in New Orleans. It is (probably) these pumps that are failing for various reasons (clogs, etc.), although they are very old.

What was probably needed more than pumps and levees, though, was something akin to the Thames Barrier, which keeps high tides and storm surges away from London. Similar devices are in use in Holland and a set of them is being built to protect Venice. A barrier outside of I-10 would have prevented Lake Pontchartrain -- actually an estuary open to the sea -- from getting so full that it overwhelmed the levee system in the northwest sector of the city. (Hurricanes rotating counterclockwise push water up into the estuary, preventing it from flowing out, and such a scenario was the worst case feared by researchers.)
posted by dhartung at 4:08 PM on September 2, 2005

Amsterdam and venice do not have huricanes.

And yet, things like this happen.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:41 PM on September 2, 2005

It is of course true that neither Amsterdam nor Venice ever get hurricanes but the problems of dealing with flooding for cities under sea level are similar. Amsterdam was hit heavily in that flood in 1953, while the worst flood in Venice was in 1966 but no one was killed. The high tide is a regular occurrence with bad weather it only causes a slight inconvenience (there are no roads and no cars in Venice, at least in the canal area, and you already travel by canal so it doesn't even have that much of an impact except the smell is awful and you have to wear your wellies!). So no comparison at all to New Orleans in terms of human and econonic damage. The problem is long term, of preserving the city itself, and it is more complicated because all the buildings are so old and the foundations so fragile. Unlike Amsterdam there is nothing much to learn from Venice as of now, though, it took ages and a lot of arguments and political fuckups to even start to stick with a plan and they've only recently launched the project to build the gates.
posted by funambulist at 12:35 AM on September 3, 2005

Indeed IndigoJones. Although Western-Europe does not experience hurricanes the 1953 flood was the result of a combination of exceptionally high tides and a storm that was born land inwards with winds at galeforce 10 Beaufort (103 km/h).

Starting in 1976 a stormtidebarrier was built in the Oosterschelde to prevent this from happening again. This stormvloedkering did cost 2.5 billion euros.
A lot of this money has been spent over decades in research on the behaviour of water masses.

So there is a similarity with Holland; it takes a consistent effort over a timespan of decades and a lot of money to take effective measures against these kind of disasters.
posted by joost de vries at 12:42 AM on September 3, 2005

As a quick PS on Venice - there is actually still a lot of objection and political fighting over the plans even if they're already started... so again if there's anything to be learnt from other cities experience is it going to be Amsterdam.
posted by funambulist at 1:44 AM on September 3, 2005

it is, not is it...
posted by funambulist at 1:45 AM on September 3, 2005

From John Kass' column in the Chicago Tribune:

"...I liked your article on the rush to spread blame. Speaking as an engineer, there is certainly plenty of blame to go around: starting with Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville who, in 1718, ignored the advice of his engineers and located the city of New Orleans on a very dangerous piece of ground. New Orleans sits not on bedrock but on unconsolidated silt washed down by the Mississippi River over eons. It is surrounded by water and always has been and always will be prone to flooding.

"The Army Corps of Engineers compounded the problem when they tamed flooding along the Mississippi River generations ago, which has virtually stopped the flow of silt to the Mississippi River delta. Without this continuous flow of silt, the river delta and New Orleans along with it are gradually sinking into the sea. No amount of federal spending on flood control will save New Orleans in the long run. Perhaps we should cut our losses and invest our federal rebuilding dollars on more tenable ground. John J., Western Springs"

Good points. I think the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina should be turned into a wildlife refuge.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:53 AM on September 3, 2005

In any case, I salute your efforts to be positive.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:03 AM on September 3, 2005

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