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Sweet Spots - In-Between Spaces in New Orleans

Sweet Spots

In-Between Spaces in New Orleans

Edited by Teresa A. Toulouse & Barbara C. Ewell
Paperback : 9781496818577, 320 pages, 99 color illustrations, May 2018
Hardcover : 9781496817020, 320 pages, 99 color illustrations, June 2018

A vibrant exploration of the Crescent City's distinctive in-between spaces


Contributions by Carrie Bernhard, Scott Bernhard, Marilyn R. Brown, Richard Campanella, John P. Clark, Joel Dinerstein, Pableaux Johnson, John P. Klingman, Angel Adams Parham, Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Ruth Salvaggio, Christopher Schaberg, Teresa A. Toulouse, and Beth Willinger

Much has been written about New Orleans's distinctive architecture and urban fabric, as well as the city's art, literature, and music. There is, however, little discussion connecting these features. Sweet Spots--a title drawn from jazz musicians' name for the space "in-between" performers and dancers where music best resonates--provides multiple connections between the city's spaces, its complex culture, and its future.

Drawing on the late Tulane architect Malcolm Heard's ideas about "interstitial" spaces, this collection examines how a variety of literal and represented "in-between" spaces in New Orleans have addressed race, class, gender, community, and environment. As scholars of architecture, art, African American studies, English, history, jazz, philosophy, and sociology, the authors incorporate materials from architectural history and practice, literary texts, paintings, drawings, music, dance, and even statistical analyses. Interstitial space refers not only to functional elements inside and outside of many New Orleans houses--high ceilings, hidden staircases, galleries, and courtyards--but also to compelling spatial relations between the city's houses, streets, and neighborhoods.

Rich with visual materials, Sweet Spots reveals the ways that diverse New Orleans spaces take on meanings and accrete stories that promote certain consequences both for those who live in them and for those who read such stories. The volume evokes, preserves, criticizes, and amends understanding of a powerful and often-missed feature of New Orleans's elusive reality.


"Ultimately, this is an excellent addition to the literature on a place where inclusion and dynamism have continually sidestepped standard expectations to forge new identities and meanings and a rich and vibrant culture. "

- Daves Rossell, Savannah College of Art and Design, Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Fall 2019

"As a whole, the collection succeeds in its insistence on a creative analytical approach that, rather than simply reproducing romantic tropes often associated with New Orleans, contributes to our understanding of how such tropes are produced. Despite the distinctive abundance of in-between spaces in New Orleans, these spaces are less a proprietary signature of the city than they are an invitation to consider the quirkiness and symbolic potential of urban interstitiality. For decades, postcolonial scholars have argued that the in-between is a deeply generative and powerful space, and Sweet Spots is a pragmatic multidisciplinary project that continues to plead their case. "

- Christopher M. Grant, University of Chicago, Winterthur Portfolio

"The authors of each essay beautifully capture the uniqueness of New Orleans in a compelling and engaging way. As a result, the reader is left with an overwhelming appreciation of the city’s Sweet Spots, gaining a new understanding of why New Orleans maintains popularity and appeal for locals and visitors alike, and the wide variety of experts, from historians, to sociologists, to geographers, and beyond, bring a diversity of approaches to the study of this great city. "

- Lacy Molina, University of North Texas, Louisiana History

"One has to think in New Orleans because New Orleans thinks itself in everyone living there. This splendid collection is a grand demonstration of how the city thinks with people who think. The more brilliant the thinkers, the greater the collaboration. This is a lasting effort. "

- Andrei Codrescu, author of New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City, one of many books New Orleans thought with him

"This rich and compelling interdisciplinary collection bypasses myth to penetrate into the city’s interstices, from the ‘pleated’ pattern of the original river plantations to the hidden gardens, architectural oddities, and unknown aspects of the fabled faubourgs. "

- John Wharton Lowe, author of Calypso Magnolia: The Crosscurrents of Caribbean and Southern Literature

"For those readers who know the city a little, or even a lot, it offers examinations of interstitial places and practices not often seen or seen this way. For those readers who don’t know New Orleans, the collection shows them where to look (and listen) and what to ask about their home places. Not all results will be sweet but all can be instructive. "

- Barbara Eckstein, author of Sustaining New Orleans: Literature, Local Memory, and the Fate of a City

"In the contemporary post-urban landscape, neglected, disused, or leftover spaces often exist somewhere between dereliction and a state of nature. For the editors of Sweet Spots, these ‘inbetween’ spaces are a defining and active element of nineteenth-century urban form, particularly of New Orleans’s Vieux Carré. . . . Fascinating and illuminating—like the city itself. "

- Gary Van Zante, curator of architecture and design, MIT Museum

"As every resident and visitor knows, New Orleans has its sweet spots. This elegant and multidisciplinary collection of essays shows us just where to find them. . . . There are a lot of excellent books about New Orleans. This is one of the best of the best. "

- Michael Bibler, associate professor of southern studies at Louisiana State University