"One of the oldest cities in North America, New Orleans is now in urgent need of rebirth, following the worst catastrophe to befall an American city since at least the San Francisco earthquake of 1906...Fortuitously, the present study was completed just weeks before Katrina. It is the product of an urban design studio at Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD), organized by Professor in Practice Joan Busquets and Visiting Critic Felipe Correa. Its focus is the evolution of New Orleans' natural and built environments since the earliest days of human (Indian) settlement. And its principal mode of investigation is through cartography and mapping, delineating the topographic character and numerous layers of development at each stage in the city's history.
The result is by no means a plan for the reconstruction of New Orleans. It is a highly provocative set of graphic and verbal analyses, however, suggesting how New Orleans became what it was in the summer of 2005—a city located perilously at the juncture of North America's greatest river and the Gulf of Mexico, ranging in elevation from about 25 feet above sea level to 25 feet below—and providing hints at last for those striving to plan its redevelopment."
— excerpt from Foreword, by Alan Altshuler