Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis open access



First Advisor

Kathryn O'Rourke


The Lafitte housing complex in New Orleans, Louisiana and the Barre Balzac apartment tower outside Paris typified the ordinary modernism that transformed cities around the world in the mid-twentieth century. I use the term “ordinary modernism” to refer specifically to buildings that exhibit characteristics of modern architecture, but lack the pedigree of iconic buildings designed by famous architects for illustrious clients. Lafitte and Balzac were public housing projects, possessing neither the opulence of a private villa nor the grandeur of a house of parliament. Although contemporary scholars and new residents alike admired the projects for their modernity at their construction, housing authorities later destroyed them. Policymakers, conflating the buildings themselves with the socio-political problems their residents faced, turned to demolition as a solution. However, preservationists today once again understand “ordinary” buildings like Lafitte and Balzac as architecturally innovative and significant and are making efforts to save and preserve them. As the status of modern buildings redefines itself, and preservationists attempt to restore and protect buildings like public housing projects, they must reconcile the artistic elitism associated with both modern architecture and preserved structures with the buildings’ egalitarian legacies.