Working with the Small Center at Tulane to envision the future of “Plessy Park”

We are proud to announce that The NOCCA Institute has been chosen as the beneficiary of a months-long collaboration with the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design at the Tulane School of Architecture (better known as the Small Center). Working together, the Institute, the Small Center, and stakeholders from across the region will envision a plan for a community space to honor civil rights hero Homer Plessy and celebrate the activists who follow in his footsteps.

This partnership is made possible by an ongoing program through which the Small Center provides design services to Orleans Parish-based nonprofits. The Institute was selected for the Small Center’s 2020-21 Visioning project, while Solitary Gardens was chosen for the Fall 2020 Design-Build project.

“Our city, and broader society, are in a moment of reckoning and questioning, and this year’s strong group of project proposals reflected that. The challenge is to bring the enthusiasm and design abilities of our students to bear on site specific issues and also engage these big picture conversations of equity, justice, and the designer’s role in positive change.” said Emilie Taylor Welty, professor of practice at Tulane School of Architecture and design-build manager at Small Center. “We’re excited to get to work with this year’s project partners!”

The visioning project that the Institute will carry out with the Small Center imagines a transformation of what is informally called “Plessy Park”–a site bordered by Royal Street, Homer Plessy Way (formerly Press Street), and Dauphine Street. It was here, on June 7, 1892, that Homer Adolph Plessy was arrested, resulting in the landmark court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy, a free person of color, had bought a first-class train ticket at the nearby Press Street Depot and boarded a car reserved for whites only. As planned by the Citizens’ Committee, Plessy’s arrest challenged Louisiana’s segregationist Separate Car Act of 1890. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Plessy, confirming the doctrine of “separate but equal” and fueling over 50 years of Jim Crow-era racial segregation laws.

“We are honored to partner with the Small Center on this very important project”, said Sally Perry, executive director of The NOCCA Institute. “As we have seen all too clearly and tragically in recent months, the work of civil rights pioneers like Homer Plessy is far from over. Working with the Small Center, we hope to create a vision for this historic site that will educate, inspire, and foster conversation and contemplation.”

We will update this post with more information about the project and how you can participate. Please stay tuned!

Thanks to generous support from Johnson Controls Incorporated, the Small Center and Tulane School of Architecture faculty and students can provide pro-bono design and planning services to the Institute and Solitary Gardens during the 2020–21 school year.

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