[photo courtesy Wayne Troyer]

A pleasant surprise was waiting in the Life Without Buildings inbox this morning: construction photos of the Make it Right homes in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. Make it Right is a program established by actor/architectural hobbyist Brad Pitt that has been designed to be a catalyst for redevelopment in the Lower 9 — a neighborhood many people thought would (and should) never be rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. Make it Right set a goal of building 150 new homes, all of which consider Cradle-to-Cradle sensibilities and employ methods of construction that make the buildings easy to replicate. Each house is built for $150,000 and paid for with donations — many via the project’s website. MIR works with local community organizations to find residents for the slowly emerging neighborhood, and once they’re approved, the new residents select the home they wish to build from a 13 different designs by local, national, and international architecture firm. So to some extent, the neighborhood is shaped by the people who live there. While it’s probably safe to assume that the almost insulting design by MVRDV will never get built, some of the more conventional choices are already well under construction.

KIERAN TIMBERLAKE ASSOCIATES:

[image via Make it Right 9]

The Garden Prototype, designed by Philadelphia-based Kieran Timberlake Associates, is a “flexible, integrated system designed to accommodate a range of customizable options.” The prototype home will be stick-built but the project was designed to be adaptable for eventual off-site fabrication. Not only that, but much like when buying a new car, “options” are available so owners can customize the home to their tastes and create a more diverse collection of homes should the Garden Prototype be built en masse. No word yet on the “Sport” model.

GRAFT

[photo courtesy Wayne Troyer]

[image via Make it Right 9]

Next up is a home designed by Pitt’s architectural confederates, GRAFT, an international office who believe that “Architecture is a deliberate recreation of a new and special reality that grows from our response to life.” What a beautiful sentiment. Their design is sort of a slanty, elevated creole cottage. There’s no description of the project on either the MIR or GRAFT websites, so there may be some sort of deeper purpose or but just from looking at these photos and renderings, its just sort of ugly and unnecessarily fragmented. We’re not buying into this “new and special reality.”

CONCORDIA ARCHITECTS

[photo courtesy Wayne Troyer]

[image via Make it Right 9]

The Lagniappe (rough translation: “a little something extra”) House, was designed by New Orleans firm Concordia Architects as a flexible weaving of indoor and outdoors spaces. Although not as sexy as some of the other projects, the Lagniappe house is a responsible, thoughtful response to the New Orleans climate and lifestyle. An extensive and pleasantly straightforward (re: non-archi-babble) description of the project can be read on Concordia’s website.

It’s always great to see some construction—especially of a contemporary-ish nature—in New Orleans, but one could argue that the people who spoke out against rebuilding the 9th Ward were right. The neighborhood feels incredibly isolated from the rest of New Orleans and the money raised for the MIR program would perhaps have been better spent rebuilding homes in the city’s central neighborhoods — areas close to existing, not to mention functional, infrastructure. Rebuilding homes is one thing, but rebuilding fire & police stations, restaurants, and grocery stores in a city still struggling with crime and housing is quite another. But maybe that’s a post for another time. For now, let’s just ruthlessly admire and/or ruthlessly critique these new efforts to interpret and update the New Orleans Vernacular.

see also:
The Making of a Make It Right House [LWB]

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19 Responses to Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Homes Now Under Construction

  1. With the Jackson Barracks being rebuilt right next door to the Lower ninth ward why would anyone say the lower ninth ward is isolated? I would argue that with the Make it Right project and individual efforts to rebuild in the Lower 9th will recover faster than many parts of the city. I think that anyone who states that the lower ninth ward is not worth saving is just a nice way of saying the people are not wanted back. Well, the people have every right to rebuild and anyone who suggests that they don’t is just wrong and ignorant.

  2. mules says:

    gordon: I think most of the concerns being voiced regarding the rebuilding of the lower 9th are of a geological/meteorological nature and not a social nature as you seem to suggest. The area is built on silt that has been gradually sinking for hundreds of years. If nature were allowed to run its course the Mississippi would deliver a new layer of silt from spring thaw to the north. This would help counteract the gradual sinking of the land but because of the levees and sea-walls this doesn’t happen and the neighborhood now sits below sea level. Sure, people have every right to rebuild, but other people have every right to question the wisdom of doing so…and insurance companies have every right to charge an exorbidant rates for flood-zone construction.

  3. Constance says:

    Brad Pitt is wasting his time with these off the mark designs. These are unique artsy homes that miss the point. Durability, longevity, ability to withstand hurricanes, floods, etc are all important but who the heck wants to live in something that’s a glorified bunker???? – IT SHOULDN’T LOOK LIKE A BUNKER!!!!!!!! see DeMaria’s container projects for the best answer to this design challenge to date, lots of glass and durability to boot!!! see the Redondo Beach House – its raised above the ground! Curbed could give Pitt a lesson and save him some bucks too!

  4. doctorj2u says:

    The most important thing is will the Corps of Engineers close off the hurricane funnel of the MRGO in time. They don’t seem to be in a real hurry.

  5. jlagerfeld says:

    I agree with the container commentor – these buildings look like crap compared to the few container projects that have been covered in this blog/website.

  6. make it wrong…?

    one looks like the roof is falling in…
    one looks like it’s been damaged by a hurricane…
    & one is an ugly trailer on stilts…
    each for $150K ?

    homes are needed, but it’s a sad state that it comes via misled designs by misled architects, selected by an architectural hobbyist.

    speaking of “cradle to cradle”… this project reeks of William McDonough’s misplaced/displaced “Green Dreams” in China…
    http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/fellows/green_dreams/

  7. Johny maniac says:

    I really don’t get why the MVRDV design is so insulting. I think it is insulting to put some conventional wannabe icons on stilts and sell them as a solution to the people of New Orleans whilst the edgy homes that came out of this dike building tradition are seen as insulting. Dutch engineer Royal Haskoning is now saving the city from flooding and this MVRDV office (same city) has proposed some cool Dutch shit. The Romans already hated this moist province up north where Tacitus the great strategist saw people living on muddy planes on top of man made hills. I don’t see an insult in the export of this tradition and adapt the typical Southern home to it.

    In the end of course we have to be greatful for anything new constructed here, and on top of that top notch architecture seems to finally engage. Wow I’d say.

    Sadly Foster, Hadid and Koolhaas are busy in Dubai making money.

  8. Anyone involved with Make It Right Project or any other projects please check out http://www.masongreenstar.com this is a company that has the perfect setup and green product to rebuild the Lower 9 and other areas. The product produced will meet every need for these areas and the special construction needs for these homes. Please contact me for more information Matthew Rager (903) 366-1125. Together we can help rebuild peoples dreams. Thank You.

  9. Barbara Vargo says:

    Unfortunately, the Lower Ninth Ward is the WORST place to expend all this effort – The area is a death trap. The government (city and federal)are misleading people into thinking that this will be a safe place to live. I understand that this is an effort not only to repair buildings but also lives that were torn apart by the disaster. Nevertheless, the Lower 9th should have been turned into a ‘green’ area, a nature park or garden plots that the former residents could use. It’s sad to think that we do not have the courage to move on, instead of making the same mistakes over and over again.

  10. Jason Leonard says:

    I think it is great that these celebritys are willing to step off the red carpet and realy get there hands darty to help people who want there help. I think the 9th ward may turn out to be a nice place. I drove throught there a few times before katrina and could not believe that people
    in america lived in war zone like this, (magnola projects). There are many people in south louisiana that live in in areas that flood very
    easly. So when we see a hurican coming our way
    we evacuate.

  11. steven says:

    At least Pitt & Co. are doing something. People down here are resilient and people all over New Orleans with damaged houses are repairing them. The 9th Ward should be no different. The modern architecture does not appeal to me. I would just love to see simple raised shotguns. I applaud anyone that steps up and lends a helping hand; celebrity or not. Most appreciative of any progress being made to this city.

  12. Nicholas Roseland says:

    Brad Pitt, members of the Make It Right Foundation, and those associated with the projects should be commended for all they’re doing in rebuilding New Orleans. As an architect who grew up in and around New Orleans (1964 to 1986, LSU graduate 1984), I do have two issues with several of the designs offered in the “Make It Right” project:

    1.) New Orleans boasts a variety of architectural types and styles, many as unique as the city itself. I feel many of the designs offered, missed the mark, not reflecting the character of the city’s architecture. Rather than intermingling with the neighborhoods, many of these homes scream “look at me”. We can still design sustainable and affordable homes without losing sight of an area’s architectural heritage.

    2.) More importantly, and what I feel is the primary issue, is how to avoid having homes flood the next time a levee fails*. New houses built within the New Orleans area levee systems should be required to have the floor system, for the lowest habitable floor, built above the potential flood waters resulting from a levee breach.

    * The saturated levees failed as a result of a category three hurricane. It’s inevitable that stronger hurricanes will cross the path of New Orleans and test the weakest links of the levee systems. Katrina should serve as a wakeup call. To think that it could not happen again is denial. The citizens of New Orleans should not rely solely on the levee systems for the protection of their homes. This should be evident when the mindset of many officials is “Acceptable risks must be weighed” when determining the level of levee protection needed versus funds to be spent on upgrading the levee systems.

    During my last visit to tour the devastation in New Orleans, I saw new homes being built that were elevated around 4 to 6 feet above grade. The irony was they were being built next door to abandoned houses with flood water stains at 8 to 10 feet above grade. I saw many homes with floodwater stains almost at the eaves. In most cases, 5 feet above grade is not enough. You can’t continue to build the same way and expect different results.

    I did find a good solution during this visit. It was a newly constructed house, elevated on pilings with the lowest habitable floor system located above the flood water elevation. The ground floor was open to the sides and rear. The ground floor front elevation had a well detailed false façade, constructed of flood resistant materials that provided privacy and an attractive curb appeal. This design provided a good solution to the potential floodwaters and blended in well with the neighborhood.

    I support the effort to design with the environment in mind, but in New Orleans floodwaters should be the primary environmental concern. I know this is an expensive proposition, but you can pay now or you can pay later. The problem with later is, it will cost a lot more than just money. More importantly, it will cost lives.

    Nicholas Roseland, AIA
    Architect Roseland, P.L.
    Vero Beach, FL

  13. dean haley says:

    would like more infromation on comeing down to work rebuildig new orleans.

    thanks

  14. Mitchell says:

    i also would like more info on to come down and help rebuilding. thanks

  15. Jessica says:

    i have been the lower 9th ward back in march on a mission trip to louisiana with my college and saw the brad pitt houses and they r the most beautiful houses that was ever made. Brad Pitt truly has a heart for people.

  16. Jessica says:

    i have been the lower 9th ward back in march on a mission trip to louisiana with my college and saw the brad pitt houses and they r the most beautiful houses that was ever made. Brad Pitt truly has a heart for people.

  17. stacey says:

    Thanks for the help, Brad. Really any help is a wonderful thing. But I have to say, these houses are not the character of New Orleans or the 9th ward. I think the architects could have come up with something better suited to the flavor of NOLA! Please keep up the good work

  18. Mary Ann Mercadel says:

    I’am a native from the lower ninth ward, I lived at 1737 Lamanche St., and would love very much to come back home. I do not have the funds to return and hope that I can get anyone to help me to return home. Please help me I’am very depress all the time.

    Sincerely,
    Mary Ann Mercadel

  19. Caitlin says:

    Mary Ann….i work for the st bernard project and we are expanding into your area so please go on their website or to their office and they will help you out. We rebuild your home by the help of staff and volunteers. We are a non-profit so everything is donated…please fill out an application. Also they have a mental and wellness clinic that you can go to for free. Please check it out. If you have any questions feel free to email me at caitlin.foley@stbernardproject.org

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