Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The slow reaction to the initial emergency and to the ongoing crisis exposed troubling realities about the response capabilities of the American government when the citizens of our most culturally diverse city were in desperate need of help.
When Brad Pitt visited the Lower 9th Ward for the first time after the storm, he was shocked by what he saw: the remnants of people’s lives strewn across the streets and an entire neighborhood torn apart and turned upside down. Pitt was even more disturbed by the lack of a clear plan to address the situation. Many were quietly saying there was no chance the Lower 9th Ward would ever be re-built.
In a series of community meetings, residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt about the challenges their community faced, both before and after the storm. The rising cost of energy placed a strain on the low-income households of the neighborhood, and residents expressed concern about worsening environmental conditions. Their concerns have been validated by many scientists, who have concluded that climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of hurricanes, resulting in the erosion of wetlands and barrier islands that once protected the coast. The residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt that, while their terrible crisis had exposed their vulnerability, Katrina had also created an opportunity: to build something better than what had existed before.
Inspired by the courage and hope of the residents he met, Pitt resolved to do whatever he could to help them rebuild. Just as importantly, he wanted to help recreate and nurture the unique culture and spirit of the Lower 9th Ward, which symbolizes the soul of New Orleans. He understood instinctively that a New Orleans rebuilt without the Lower 9th Ward would never be whole.
He began by working with Global Green to sponsor an architecture competition aimed at generating ideas about how to rebuild sustainably. Pitt worked with local community leaders as well as experts from around the world to develop viable ideas for the Lower 9th Ward. That successful project inspired Pitt’s new focus: Make It Right.
The Mission of Make It Right is clear: it is to be a catalyst for redevelopment of the Lower 9th Ward, by building a neighborhood comprised of safe and healthy homes that are inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking, with an emphasis on a high quality of design, while preserving the spirit of the community’s culture. The goal is to accomplish this quickly, so that the first residents can begin returning to their homes as soon as possible.
Graft’s proposal for housing in the Lower Ninth merges metaphorical abstractions of traditional and modern architecture, driven with the purpose of capitalizing on the more successful components within each as a means with which to generate a more robust whole.
Our proposal positions itself from the starting point of a traditional New Orleans housing typology, the shot gun house, which is abstractly represented through an expressive, almost exaggerated, gable roof and generous front porch. The fluidity of the relationship between home and community, the provision of areas designated to interaction with neighbors and friends, is truly one of the things that makes the Lower 9th so incredibly special. We felt it important to pay homage to this. Through progression of the project, the house is coupled with modern affordable sustainable amenities. The transition of short section of the house reflects the progressive transformation, until finally arriving at a representation of contemporary modernism, expressed at the rear of the home, vis a vis the iconic flat roof, commonly associated with the apex of modernism.
This resulting flat roof space offers the opportunity to program a safe haven; a space designed to aid in life safety by providing a strategy for passive survivability.
Sustainable features include: Solar panels, Water Catchments system, Geothermal system, With Heat pump, thankless water heater, high ceilings for stack ventilation, operable windows which aid in stack ventilation and cross ventilation, highly insulated hurricane resistant windows, High R value insulation, none off gassing paint and finish materials, permeable pavement, energy star appliances, ceiling fans, low flow toilets