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observations and opinions about new orleans

summer 2008

In December 2006, local activist, Brad Pitt, convened a group of experts in New Orleans to brainstorm about building green affordable housing on a large scale to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.



Brad Pitt Illustration Š 2008 Mark Andresen

by nick marinello Home, homeward, home front, homeboy, home plate, home field, homemade, hometown, homecoming. Homeless. Home is the word. It locates me, orients me, binds me to something that is not me. I was born in New Orleans, live in New Orleans, have a family in a house on a street in New Orleans. Am centered by the virtue of location, location, location. They say the number of homeless has doubled since Katrina, but how do you figure that? First you have to know what it means to be homeless, and to what extent does anyone really know what that means any more in this town? I don’t live in a tent under a highway, on a stain in a doorstep or in a trailer on a front lawn. There are so many ways that I am not homeless. This in a city so rich in homelessness that it exports it to other cities. I’m not staying with inlaws in Laplace, leasing a flat in Atlanta or clutching a rental voucher in Houston. Carrollton, Oak, Burdette, Freret. …I turn the corner and am nearly home, where there are shelves with things on them, and I know which things go on which shelves. Mirabeau, St. Anthony, Rapides. … I drive across town and visit the home I grew up in. It slept in eight feet of water for a few weeks and now stands empty and gutted behind an unruly tangle of weeds. I kick the front door open like a cowboy when I enter. Like Donald Trump or Marlon Brando or Oprah, I have an embarrassment of homes. One filled with things and one filled with nothing.


Dispossessed, relocated,

, vagrant, squatter, bum. … Maybe one day

I will kick open the door of my childhood home and it will have a tent in the front room, a family in the back, a drunk on the side doorstep, someone else yammering about government conspiracies, a group of Mexicans in the backyard, huddled around a fire burning in a rusted 55-gallon drum. I could pull up one of the plastic outdoor chairs that managed not to float way. I could sit down and begin telling stories about how my father would also burn stuff in the backyard, or about how my mother loved avocado green, or how my sister’s room had hot pink carpet.

Or I could do an about face in my cowboy boots, close my eyes and click my heels and wish myself a million miles away, across the various broken pieces of this city and back home.

Photograph © 2008 Jackson Hill


T h e N e w Yo r k T im e s 4 . 01. 0 8

d e t r a t s e v a h s t c roje p g n i s u o h m i r g T he eo g a t r o h s e t u c a n ta u B . n a l p t n e m e c pla s s a l a t n e r r o f e n lin i s r u o h t i a w o t dreds The growing frus tration points a h y e h t d i a s s l a i fic f o d w o r c t s e g g i n -a t he b o , y h tc e k s ’s s n a le r O ap in New w o n s n a e l r O w Ne n i s t n e m p o l e v e of d ghborh nei t t-hi des har Many ofnthe . n r u t w o d l a n o i t na have been for months, with a few the res t in var ying stages of aban

Photograph Š 2008 Jackson Hill

e r l a r e d e f f o t r a p d to come down, nu h d e r r u p s g n i s u e of low-cos t ho h, c r a M d i m n i s r e h assis t ance vouc esme th g in r r u c e r a n e e b s n ts up whrastehean. Financing for doze had eve y r e v o c e r in a g a ff o k , n -agaeinars uncer t ain, tha s to the app

orhoods remain stuck where they w houses on a block occupied and andonment or repair.


P Brad Pitt Illustration Š 2008 Mark Andresen


Pink B r a d pitt h a s a p l a n


Photograph Š 2008 Jackson Hill

pink houses as visual meta

While on set in New Orleans, Brad Pitt noticed a house on the site that was swathed in pink fabric. Fascinated with the sharp color contrast between a pink CGI set and its lush green surroundings, Pitt identified the visual potency of assembling pink houses across a broad site as a metaphor. Pink, a symbol rich with the promise of homes that will be constructed for the community of the Lower 9th Ward resonates with an immediate and cogent message: “They have not been forgotten.” – The Make It Right Project

aphor in the lower 9th ward

by schwartz architects and wayne troyer architects This super sustainable multi-family housing improves the lives of New Orleans post-Katrina population by utilizing efficient planning and passive and active environmental systems. Re-inventing time-proven southern housing and landscape principles and proportions of the city’s revered shotgun houses, we offer an economical, flexible, new typology for New Orleans: the NOLA ShotgunLOFThouse. The project is designed to LEED Platinum rating and zero carbon footprint. The residents of Holy Cross requested a mix of single- and two-story ShotgunLOFT houses. In the multi-family dwelling, 12 ShotgunLOFT studios and 1 to 3 bedroom units combine open loft living space with pre-fabricated bathroom and kitchen modules. Common sense planning includes the use of post-Katrina regional, renewable and recycled materials (telephone poles, southern pine, recycled steel, recycled wood floors and wall panels) and passive design (through cross-unit and chimney-effect cooling, deep porch shading, green and PV-panel shaded roofs) to reduce energy needed primarily for cooling (preserving natural resources and reducing carbon emissions). Our design, construction and operation factors a 93% reduction in energy costs for the multi-family units while the single family homes will actually produce more energy than they consume.   Site density is achieved by a 3-story, 12-unit ShotgunLOFT with Mississippi River views and super-efficient floor plans. Density minimizes the exterior exposure of the units, conserving materials and energy. The building is lifted four feet off the ground for ventilation. The northeast garden elevation is a vertical stack of deep southern porches with stairways covered by lush vines. The porches are outfitted with a dual-protection shade and hurricane shuttering system.

Design of sustainable dwelling by Schwartz Architects, New York and Wayne Troyer Architects, New Orleans Rendering © 2008 Will Soniat of

by eskew + dumez + ripple The design of this prototype house developed out of the need to provide residents of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward affordable and sustainable housing options. As one of 13 homes designed for the Make It Right project, the first generation of homes will likely be constructed on-site, but this prototype is designed to anticipate future off-site, pre-fabricated construction – allowing for increased quality and affordability while decreasing material waste and on-site labor. From a sustainable perspective, the design minimizes the use of non-renewable sources of both energy and materials. A highly efficient envelope is designed to maximize natural ventilation while providing window protection (both solar and storm) with an operable shutter system. All storm water is collected and retained on site where it provides for the resident’s non-potable uses. The slope of the roof integrates both of these needs by directing water to the rear (where it is funneled to a cistern below the house) while allowing hot inside air to rise and be exhausted out of the front (supported by an ‘attic fan’ when required). These and other design features, such as solar power collection, solar water heating and high-efficiency mechanical systems and appliances, will reduce overall operating and energy costs – thereby increasing affordability for residents.

Rendering © 2008 Thaddeus Zarse, Designer, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple


Man wants a dwelling which w branches broken off in the fores He chooses four of the stronges ularly to the ground, to form a s ports four others laid across the which incline to both sides, and This kind of roof is covered wit out both sun and rain: and now

will house, not bury him. Some st are material to his purpose. st, and raises them perpendicsquare. On these four he supem; above these he lays some d come to a point in the middle. th leaves thick enough to keep man is lodged...

Illustration Š 2008 Caroline Hill

A Thousand Vapors by john p. klingman Peoples’ desire for shelter is entwined with a theory of the origin of architecture. Famously, Marc-Antoine Laugier in his Essai sur l’architecture of 1753, asks us to consider man’s primordial condition: “He wants a place to settle. Beside a tranquil stream he sees a meadow; the fresh turf pleases his eye, the tender down invites him. He approaches; and reclining on the bright colors of this carpet he thinks only of enjoying the gifts of nature in peace; he lacks nothing, he desires nothing; but presently the sun’s heat begins to scorch him, and he is forced to look for shelter. “A neighboring wood offers the cool of its shadows, he runs to hide in its thicket; and he is content again. Meanwhile a thousand vapors which had risen in various places meet and join; thick clouds obscure the air, and fearful rains stream in torrents down on the delicious wood. The man, inadequately sheltered by leaves, does not know how to defend himself against the discomfort of a humidity which seems to attack him on all sides. A cave comes into view; he slips into it; finding himself sheltered from the rain he is delighted with his discovery. But new defects make this dwelling disagreeable as well: he lives in the dark; the air he has to breathe is unhealthy. “He leaves the cave determined to compensate by his industry for the omissions and neglect of nature. Man wants a dwelling which will house, not bury him. Some branches broken off in the forest are material to his purpose. He chooses four of the strongest, and raises them perpendicularly to the ground, to form a square. On these four he supports four others laid across them; above these he lays some which incline to both sides, and come to a point in the middle. This kind of roof is covered with leaves thick enough to keep out both sun and rain: and now man is lodged... “The little hut which I have just described is the type on which all the magnificences of architecture are elaborated.” The little hut, of course, is now the centerpiece of Duncan Plaza. But the scenario equating architecture and shelter doesn’t quite ring true... Louis Armstrong found shelter in a street parade with the Tuxedo Brass Band in 1921. Years later, he recalled that he felt able to go unhindered anywhere in New Orleans, at the time a city with neighborhoods that could be very hostile to outsiders. Shelter is comfortably being where you want to be.

Photograph of homeless camp site © 2008 Jackson Hill

Photograph Š 2008 Jackson Hill

Desire is the registered trade name of Desire, L.L.C. Š 2008 Desire, L.L.C. 608 Baronne Street New Orleans, LA 70113 e-mail: Publisher: Tom Varisco Contributing Editor: Whitney Stewart Art Direction, Design: Tom Varisco Designs Design, Production: Jan Bertman, Gregory Good Printing: Garrity Printing Paper Stock: Accent Opaque Type Face: Trade Gothic

Desire #26 Summer 2008  

Observing Regrowth

Desire #26 Summer 2008  

Observing Regrowth