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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Make It Right Foundation, New Orleans, United States

Hurricane Katrina initiative calls on world architects to use innovative design to rebuild the city
More synonymous with the big screen than big builds, Brad Pitt is the unlikely head of the Make It Right Foundation (MIR) set up in 2006 as a response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. The Foundation aims to create affordable housing on a large scale to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. But far from quick-fix building, Pitt’s vision is to create housing which is not only affordable and strong but also innovative in design and which will limit the impact on the environment, thus providing a suitable nod to the elements which caused the damage.

In this effort some of the most well-known names in architecture are pitching in with ideas. David Adjaye, Shigeru Ban, Morphosis and Pugh + Scarpa Architects join a line-up of 14 firms, of which 5 firms are local, whose varied designs have been submitted for the project. Each design offers a very different prospect to the scheme. Morphosis’ design, despite seemingly being made of concrete and steel, resembles a modern take on an elongated Scandinavian lodge with a pitched roof, where Adjaye’s design offers roof terraces covered with a flat solar paneled floating ceiling. One of the most outlandish designs is by MVRDV Architects who suggest an enwidened v-shape supplying passers-by with intrigue as to how the structure is formed inside. Shigeru Ban offers up a comparably sedate design, integrating with the landscape by creating a recess which can be landscaped and act as a garden opening out from the boundaries of the house.

The MIR think-tank, headed by Pitt and including community leaders, discussed the hurdles associated with rebuilding in a devastated area and determined that a large-scale redevelopment project focused on green affordable housing and incorporating innovative design was possible. Previously, Pitt sponsored an architecture competition organized by Global Green with the goal of generating ideas about how to rebuild sustainably. Several of those designs are currently under construction in the Lower 9th Ward and the project inspired him to expand his efforts. The MIR group settled on the goal of constructing 150 new homes (one of the larger rebuilding projects in the city), with an emphasis on developing an affordable system that could be replicated. The designs submitted are all focused around this ideal with the integration of sustainable design systems.

The build is to commence in the Lower 9th Ward which is one of the most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The scheme is funded in the whole by donations to the MIR website and American actress/presenter Ellen DeGeneris has also formed a team to sponsor the project. Other organisations involved in the scheme include William McDonough + Partners, a world leader in environmental architecture, Graft and the Cherokee Gives Back Foundation which specialises in remediation and the sustainable redevelopment of environmentally impaired buildings.

Niki May Young
News Editor
architecture NOW

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