Book Reviews | March 2011 | Deb Burst

Stephanie Bruno hails New Orleans Neighborhood Architecture

I've always been a big fan of Stephanie Bruno's weekly newspaper column the "StreetWalker." An architectural historian and preservation consultant, R. Stephanie Bruno is a contributing writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In her recent guidebook titled New Orleans Streets: A Walker's Guide to Neighborhood Architecture, she assembles her best work and explores the true culture of the Big Easy. Imagine a memoir for a city so full of life that it can only be told through its architecture and the people who live there. Bruno has a whimsical appetite for the city she loves, and her prose will delight both locals and tourists alike. From vivid descriptions of the storied streetscapes to chatting with curious neighbors...beyond the obvious...beyond the iron-laced balconies, it's an intimate look inside our sacred neighborhoods.
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Bruno guides her readers down the sunny streets of New Orleans shaded by oak trees and tropical gardens. Organized geographically with detailed maps, the conversational narrative tempers the mundane directions in what feels like a casual stroll through an eclectic neighborhood with an expert historian by your side.
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Each chapter begins with the anatomy of the block dissecting the neighborhood boundaries narrowing the focus to a cluster of homes. Bruno then performs her magic giving clues on the style and history of the architecture closing the chapter with a brief chat with people on porch stoops or men in wide- brimmed hats doing yard work.  

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It's a geometric display of vintage architecture, from Creole cottages in the Vieux Carre and stately townhouses in the American Sector to the Garden District center-halls and rows of brightly colored shotgun houses. Follow avenues lined with homes draped in exquisite and funky ornamentation cast in milled brackets, arched-top windows, and gingerbread trim. Bruno examines the variations of styles chronicling building methods and designs of past generations. Another delightful passage is a careful look at the homes character with anecdotes and renovation observations.

The book combines the best of both worlds, the look and feel of a coffee-table book with the utility of a guide book, wrapped in a "hometown" voice that can only be New Orleans. A perfect accompaniment for the casual tourist or lifelong resident, Bruno's expert detail gives new life and appreciation for a city on the rise...a New New Orleans.

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  Except for book cover, photos by Deb Burst.