Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brad Pitt, New Orleans, and "Houses of the Future"

Wayne Curtis has a very interesting article in The Atlantic, called Houses of the Future.  The intro:

Four years after the levee failures, New Orleans is seeing an unexpected boom in architectural experimentation. Small, independent developers are succeeding in getting houses built where the government has failed. And the city's unique challenges—among them environmental impediments, an entrenched culture of leisure, and a casual acquaintance with regulation—are spurring design innovations that may redefine American architecture for a generation.

An interesting assessment, particularly in its suggestion that private development has been working better so far than any comprehensive efforts to rebuild New Orleans.  What does Brad Pitt have to do with all this?

And then, suddenly, amid heroically overgrown lawns, you see a cluster of modern, colorful, and modestly sized homes, looking like a farm where they grow houses for Dwell magazine. These are the fruits to date of Pitt’s other project, Make It Right New Orleans. New Orleanians refer to these homes collectively as “the Brad Pitt Houses,” which gives them the pleasing ring of an ambitious public-housing project from the post–World War II years. But Pitt’s ambitions are not merely utilitarian. He hopes to offer displaced residents affordable, cutting-edge, radically green homes designed by name-brand architects like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry. And he seems to be succeeding.

Four years after Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans is not proceeding the way anyone envisioned, nor with the expected cast of characters. (If I may emphasize: Brad Pitt is the city’s most innovative and ambitious housing developer.)

However, not everyone is on board with Brad Pitt's (architects') designs:

Not everybody is so circumspect. “Oh, it’s all bullshit,” Andres Duany said to me last fall, when I brought up Make It Right. “The high design? That has nothing to do with reality. That’s just architectural self-indulgence.”

Duany has been heavily involved in New Orleans rebuilding since the hurricane, but he advocates both traditional design and traditional methods:

So the central problem, according to Duany: “All the do-goody people attempting to preserve the culture are the same do-gooders who are raising the standards for the building of houses, and are the same do-gooders who are giving people partial mortgages and putting them in debt,” he said. . . .

As an alternative, Duany argues for “opt-out zones” for some of the hardest-hit areas, including the Lower Ninth. Within these zones, residents could rebuild their homes the way the city was originally constructed: by hand, incrementally, and unencumbered by what Duany calls “gold-plated” building regulations or bank requirements.

It's a good article that touches on many land use issues (I just wish The Atlantic had included more pictures in the web version). 

Matt Festa


Affordable Housing, Architecture, Green Building, New Urbanism, Redevelopment | Permalink

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Wow, some in depth info from Duany there...impressive.

Posted by: Estate Agents Chelsea | Jun 16, 2010 4:49:42 PM