The shotgun house is an indigenous response to the hot humid climate of New Orleans. Despite the passage of many decades and a gauntlet of difficulties, tens of thousands of these houses remain standing in New Orleans. Built as homes to immigrants, former slaves and working class families, the shotguns have continued to provide affordable housing efficiently and gracefully in the city.
With a shotgun as its locus, we, an artist and an architect, are exploring the narrative, network and geography that fans outward from the home itself, back into the city’s history and its roots, forward to continued function and usefulness. Our installation for Prospect 2 will examine how materials, builders and craftsmen have come together to create and sustain the housing form. The basic materials (brick, wood, cast iron, plaster, slate roofing, and color), traditional to the Crescent City, will be traced back to their origins. Paths from primary material to finished product will be followed, trajectories made visible from source to factory, from warehouse to building site, from hands to form. Men who mastered the various trades will be given a face and a history.
The project will examine how those skills became refined in creating the shotgun house, skills brought to New Orleans from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. In doing so, the house will be seen as a living portrait of New Orleans. Exhibited here is the product of an on-going thinking process as we work on our shotgun installation for Prospect 2.
Patricia Tusa Fels is an architect and historic preservationist. Raised in New Orleans, she has always loved the shotgun house. She has been involved in conservation projects in the United States, Europe and Asia. In addition to a lengthy career in architecture, she has written articles for a wide range of journals. Her book, The Mosques of Cochin, is being published by Mapin. The book is concerned with the remarkable ancient wooden tropical mosques in South India, and features photography by Donald Fels.
Donald Fels is a visual artist with particular interest in place. He works on multi-media projects around the world, has had a Fulbright Fellowship to Italy and been a Fulbright Scholar in India. He has just completed a kinetic water sculpture for the City of Seattle, is collaborating on a play based in Cambodia, and has an exhibition opening this spring at the Chicago Cultural Center on the reach of Sears into the American hinterland. He is working on an installation for Paris on the roses of Empress Josephine, and a graphic non-fiction book on the rather amazing history of alum and the intrigue it caused.