Rendering by Patrick Lopez, Courtesy BNIM Architects
Houston Firm’s Low-Cost Home Design Pledged to Help Ravaged New Orleans n e w o r l e a n s Announced to fanfare surrounding actor Brad Pitt’s personal involvement with bringing affordable housing to this beleaguered city’s poorest residents, the Make It Right program unveiled designs in December for houses by some of the world’s cutting-edge architects. A total of 13 international, national, and regional firms were invited to create home designs for the Crescent City’s Lower Ninth Ward, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. The Houston office of BNIM Architects is among the firms selected by Make It Right, an initiative that aims to raise private funds to build 150 affordable and sustainable homes. BNIM’s architects and the Make it Right team worked closely with community leaders and residents to develop a prototype design for a 940-square-foot, two-bedroom dwelling. The concept originates from shotgun-style homes common to New Orleans, but includes measures to improve on the traditional building type by incorporating outdoor spaces protected by ample porches. The intent is to foster interaction between neighbors and enrich neighborhoods through active participation in day-to-day community activities. Other firms selected by Make It Right include Morphosis, KieranTimberlake Associates, Adjaye Associates, Billes Architecture, Constructs, Eskew + Dumez + Ripple, MVRDV, Pugh
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+ Scarpa Architecture, Shigeru Ban Architects, and Trahan Architects. Architects were asked to design a 1,000-square-foot house that could be constructed for about $150,000. The houses are required to be elevated five to eight feet above ground. According to BNIM, its building will be easy to construct and energy-efficient using appropriate solar orientation to minimize heat gain while allowing ample natural light into interior spaces. Materials will include structural insulated panels. A rainwater cistern and a portable solar energy pack will be included, items meant for residents to feel safe in the event of future flooding. In addition, the roof structure is designed for future installation of south-facing photovoltaic panels. BNIM organized the design effort out of the firm’s Houston office, with Filo Castore, AIA, as design manager, Bob Berkebile, FAIA, as principal in charge, and James Anderson Jr. as project designer. Austin-based Architectural Engineers Collaborative, as well as John Porretto with SBS Home Builders in South Carolina, were both instrumental to the project’s development. Final design documents to begin construction on the home will be executed by John C. Williams Architects of New Orleans. Team members made several trips to New Orleans throughout the design process to work directly with Make It Right’s organizers, as well as constituents of the Lower Ninth Ward community. During these meetings, residents helped the design team identify functional and aesthetic aspects of the prototype design. A
panel of 50 local citizens reviewed final designs and voiced their preferences for the future rebuilding of their neighborhood. Construction of the homes is expected to begin early this year, with the first projects being completed as early as May. Brad Pitt’s star power has helped draw attention to the program. He and Hollywood producer Steve Bing have each committed $5 million in matching funds toward the effort. BNIM Architects’ rebuilding efforts began immediately after the Hurricane Katrina, when the firm volunteered its help through the U.S. Green Building Council to develop sustainable rebuilding guidelines for New Orleans. Parallel efforts included an advisory role for the Global Green/Brad Pitt sponsored design competition for sustainable rebuilding in the Lower Ninth Ward, sponsorship and a sustainable consulting role for the UrbanBuild house designed and constructed in the Upper Treme neighborhood by students at the Tulane University School of Architecture, and participation in the development of a Sustainable Restoration Plan for the Lower Ninth Ward. BNIM Architects is currently working with John C. Williams Architects to develop a master plan for reuse of the Holy Cross School site, located in the Holy Cross District of Lower Ninth Ward. In addition, BNIM Architects is currently working with a private developer on an $85 million redevelopment of approximately five city blocks along New Orleans’ riverfront. S t e p h e n
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The writer is the editor of Texas Architect.
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Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...