A trumpet blasts a familiar tune; “When the Saints go Marching in.” Casually, a crowd gathers on Royal Street to enjoy the performers’ upbeat music. This melody was heard a few times during a recent trip to New Orleans, and although perhaps cliché, it was one of many welcomed cultural references to the city. Jazz has grown up with New Orleans and contributes to its vibrant and complicated identity. Just like the piercing music from a muted brass horn, architectural details such as the cast iron ornament on a breezy urban balcony offer visual cues that identify culture and “place.”

Street Performers

The strong urban fabric, largely of French creole and Spanish colonial architecture, weaves a vibrant and diverse tapestry. Streets defined by modestly scaled commercial townhomes and creole cottages provide the French Quarter with a consistent typological pattern. It’s a pleasurable experience to simply walk down a street and consume all of the eye candy. Colorful signs beckon the passer-by to explore history in an antique shop, purchase spices for the perfect jambalaya, or even stop in to sample a praline. Above, iron balconies link the public and private realms, while providing shade for pedestrians and allowing people to enjoy cool breezes charging down the streets off the mighty Mississippi. Humble buildings with unassuming materials such as stucco, brick, and wood, often feature special ornamented details in stone or iron. This seems to reflect the nature of the big easy, casual lifestyle with a hint of refined southern charm.

Dacatur and Royal

Colorful Shops on Royal Street, Brick Facades on Decatur Street

There is great aesthetic diversity between streets only a few blocks away.

Jackson Square

St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral

Mardi Gras significantly contributes to New Orleans’ identity, and religious heritage. In purple, green, and gold, ornamented balconies are carefully decorated with ribbons, flowers, streamers, and beads, which contribute to the festive carnival atmosphere. The city hosts events and parades that escalate anticipation in the feast and celebration of “Fat Tuesday” preceding Lent, the season spanning from Ash Wednesday until Easter. The French and Spanish traditions of Catholicism endure in the city today. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral prominently commands attention at Jackson Square. Inside, the soaring barrel vaulted nave instills a spirit of stillness and reverence.   The architecture flanking Jackson Square is merely a backdrop for the activity within as flamboyant artists, performers, mystics, and vendors take center stage. A marching band triumphantly plays at the cathedral steps as a part of the many parades winding throughout the city. The square’s surrounding fence is covered with colorful paintings by artists excited to share their work. These imaginative and representative images capture the essence of local landmarks, colorful individuals, and memorable experiences. Powdered sugar coats the paving below park benches; evidence of recently devoured beignets, illustrating a city that is a cultural canvas where people leave their mark.