Would you like People on your Piazza?

Early in my college career I wrote a paper on Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia, constructed in 1978 for the World's Fair in New Orleans. An article in the May issue of Landscape Architecture, titled "That 70's Show" documents the recent $1 million rehab and the piazza's sorry history.

Moore created five hemispherical colonnades, each representing the five orders and growing in size and complexity as they radiate from an Italy-shaped pool in the center. A sixth order, dubbed the Delicatessen Order, bounds the piazza with adjacent buildings, featuring dual visages of the architect in an archway entrance. These last features give the whole design some kitsch and lightness, as the Deli Orders are capped with steel and neon lights.

View of Piazza d'Italia

All this was welcomed openly at the time by the architectural community and critics across the country. Unfortunately the project could not live up to its praise, since nearby development which would have surrounded the piazza and given it life never happened. As early as six months after its completion the paint was peeling, the fountains were clogged, and vagrants occupied the space most of the time. Until Loews, operator of an adjacent hotel, paid for the piazza's rehab, the space resembled a ruin more than a highly-praised, post-modern design.

With development encroaching on the piazza, perhaps its use will finally be exploited as it was originally intended. Devoted to Italian-Americans and their ancestry, the space will divide its time between public use, private functions, and special events of the American Italian Renaissance Foundation.