Brad Pitt´s Make It Right Foundation has been working with a numebr of international architects to redevelop the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, after hurricane Katrina. The name of the foundation addresses the desire of Pitt, an architecture enthusiast, to design these houses the best way and not just as a temporary solution. All in a process that also includes working not only with these renowned firms, but also very closely with the community; with a focus on sustainable development.
Make It Right has recently unveiled a second phase with 14 duplex homes to accommodate up to 2 families, which include a site-specific sustainable strategy and flexible plans
for future family growth. Families from the Lower 9th Ward, can now choose to
build a duplex in the Make It Right neighborhood, which until now, only single family homes were available and being built on the site devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Fourteen acclaimed local, national and international architects volunteered their time,
met with the community and potential homeowners and applied their experience
and creativity to come up with high quality designs that push the envelope.
All of the designs are referential and each client can pick a design, which is then
adjusted by local firm to suite the client´s needs.
‘Before the storm, there were a number of duplexes and doubles in the neighborhood. Families who want to come back to the Lower 9th have been asking us to build them so extended families can live together. And duplexes are right in keeping with Make It Right’s mission: They allow more people to live together with less impact on the environment and are more cost-effective to build.’
While each of the 14 duplex designs is unique, the architects tackled some common problems and arrived at innovative solutions that could change the way multi-family homes are built:
Flexibility – A number of the designs feature interchangeable floor plans that allow the families to change the size and configuration of the two homes as their family size, needs or economic situations change. Integration with the Street – Increasing the elevation of the homes made them safer from flooding, but interrupted the connectedness between the porch and life on the street –a relationship valued by the Lower 9th Ward community. A number of architects offered solutions to this problem, including creating landings or stoops in the stairways where the family can gather. Landscaping as a design and energy element – Several architects incorporated landscaping into their design of these solar-powered, highly energy efficient homes to maximize exposure to sun and shade and cut heating and cooling costs. And because outdoor living is such a core part of living in the Lower 9th Ward, many of the designs include courtyards, interior gardens, and social use of the area under the elevated house. Affordability —To cut the cost, but not the quality of these duplexes, several of the architects stacked the houses one on top of the other to reduce the ‘footprint’ of the home and simplify construction. One of the designs cuts construction costs dramatically by stacking the core of the home and aligning all of the electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems in the center of the structure, much like an elevator shaft in the center of an office building.
‘To help us, we turned to some of the best architects in the business. They volunteered their time, met with the community and potential homeowners and applied their experience and creativity to come up with high quality designs that really advance the concept of the duplex,’ according to Make It Right Executive Director, Tom Darden. ‘All of these architects faced a daunting set of challenges. They were asked to base their work on a very traditional New Orleans home – the duplex. We also asked them to make the home green, affordable, and durable enough to weather the storms to come. In addition, they were expected to do it using materials inspired by William McDonough’s Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy and verified to be non-toxic and recycle-able. They cleared that high bar AND created homes of great and lasting beauty’, Darden explained.
One of the internationally known architects was Dr. Hitoshi Abe from Japan. Dr. Abe is Chair and Professor of UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Abe is known for architecture that is spatially complex and structurally innovative and the work of Atelier Hitoshi Abe, has been published internationally and received numerous awards, including most recently the 2009 Architectural Institute of Japan Award for SSM/Kanno Museum.
Principal of his own firm, he founded Atelier Hitoshi Abe in 1993 in Sendai, Japan and then opened a second office in Los Angeles. Some of his key projects located in Japan include the Aoba-tei restaurant, the Sasaki Office Factory for Prosthetics, F-town, which is an eat-and-drink building filled with bars and restaurants in Sendai, the Miyagi Stadium in Rifu, SSM/Kanno Museum in Shiogama, the 9-tsubo House “Tall” in Kanagawa, and the Reihoku Community Hall in Kumamoto. Abe’s work is also the subject of two monographs including Hitoshi Abe Flicker (TOTO) from his exhibition in 2005 at the Gallery Ma in Tokyo and Hitoshi Abe published by Phaidon in 2009.
Atelier Hitoshi Abe's duplex house for the new phase of the Make It Right project is a renovated version of a shotgun house, which offers several configurations depending on the client´s needs. Through the inherit flexibility of its organization, this house can accommodate many arrangements of single family, multiple family, renter and tenant and live/work arrangements.
Two shotgun houses are linked together and able to open, close or share the space between. In this way, much larger open spaces are created for private bedrooms or public living spaces. The flexible boundary between the residences can be soft and adapt the changing needs of a family throughout the years. The array of choices gives families freedom to adapt their living size to their economic situations with little cost. If an owner desired a single family house, they can choose from a three, four, five or six bedroom house. If an owner’s family required less space, they can split the residence into a duplex, granny-unit or a live-work unit to enable to growth of a small business.
Owners are able to re-create and customize their living situations as needed. The economic benefits of a flexible structure also translate into ecological benefits of a re-usable or re-purposed structure.The façade of the building has been developed following a strategy of flexibility as well. It can absorb different colors, sizes and quantities of siding depending on the availability of materials or economic conditions at a given time. Weaving different colors into one façade and taking advantage of this adaptability creates a new identity and residential fabric. Truly genius in it's thought process and presentation.