The loss of architecture in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has shaken the cultural roots of many of the cities it affected. Perhaps no city was hit harder than New Orleans, where iconic buildings all but crumbled after the devastating natural disaster, taking with them much of the city’s rich history.
While the US has been criticised for its efforts to rebuild the city post-Katrina, one initiative to get the city back on its feet is drawing star power from a number of different fields and delivering on plans to create a new New Orleans that is strong and sustainable.
The brainchild of Hollywood move star Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, the ongoing plans promise to deliver hundreds of sustainable and storm resistant homes to the city so as to build a strong foundation for the rehabilitating city.
While each of these houses promise a fresh start to a severely damaged built environment, one project in particular will hold a special place in its new surroundings given its nod toward New Orleans traditionalism and its delivery by arguably the world’s most notable architect, Frank Gehry.
Putting a very ‘Gehry’ twist on the traditional and iconic New Orleans double-shotgun-style home, the building’s dual entrances are located on either side of the building rather than adjacent to one another on one side.
The house at 1750 Tennessee St is a testament to innovation and creativity, with its bright pink and lilac façade – for which the homeowner chose zero VOC paints – exemplifying this notion.
While the exterior may represent creative hedonism, the insides are all about functional efficiency. Rooftop decks feature solar panel shading, which will generate energy for the dwelling, while the overall building has been built up metres higher than the minimum requirements in order to safeguard it from extensive flood damage.
The materials used in the interior fitout are 75 per cent recycled, with hardwood flooring and features sustainably harvested. Storm management features such as Kevlar sheets protect the windows in place of traditional hurricane shutters if necessary, offering added protection and overall efficiency.
Due to its extensive use of green methodologies and features, the building is expected to attain a LEED Platinum certified rating.
In describing the project, Gehry explains the collaborative nature of the home and how working with both homeowners and the community serves as a key to its success.
“I wanted to make a house that I would like to live in and one that responded to the history, vernacular and climate of New Orleans,” says Gehry. “I love the colors that the homeowner chose. I could not have done it better”.
The house stands as number 86 in the long line of house still to be completed. The opportunity this initiative will offer to New Orleans as a whole is the confidence of strong, durable, resilience architecture by leading community members who are thinking not just in the now – but for the future of the city.