Monday, February 2, 2009

Ambassador of Schools

Charles R. Colbert's role as Supervising Architect and Director of the Office of Planning and Construction for the Orleans Parish School Board (1949-1952) ultimately resulted in the creation of his award-winning Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, 2300 Dumaine Street, designed in 1954. Utilizing his own appraisal scheme, he considered this project to exemplify the very highest quality of all his professional work. The building won the Top Award from the The School Executive "Better School Design Competition" in 1954 and was shown by the U.S. State Department in Berlin (1957) and Moscow (1958) as part of its foreign relations programming. Omer Blodgett published an article about Wheatley's elevated truss system for Progessive Architecture in August 1958. Earlier that decade, Colbert's battle with the parish to embrace modernism for its schools was chronicled by Architectural Forum (February 1951).

Colbert (1921-2007) was born in Oklahoma, studied architecture at the University of Texas, went on to study naval architecture at the University of Michigan, and received an M.S. in architecture at Columbia University. He taught architecture at Tulane University from 1947-49, later leaving New Orleans to reorganize Texas A & M's architecture program (1956-1957) and accepting appointment as the Dean of the School of Architecture at Columbia University in 1960, a position he held until 1963.

His firm brochure, circa 1971 emphasized:

"Enviable indeed is the man who can point to his buildings with pride to say:

This is where I raise my children.
There is where my children are educated.
This is where I conduct my business."

[Image above:
Colbert Lowrey Hess Boudreaux Firm Brochure, circa 1971. "Colbert, Charles" Biographical File, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Photograph by Frank Lotz Miller].

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