The New Orleans high ground can become the location for vibrant, affordable, mixed-use and mixed-income housing. This
scheme’s prototypical and multi-layered strategy promotes density and the productive friction of urban life. Diverse
functions and housing options provide a new kind of urban synergy, while maintaining the characteristic graining of the
city’s deep and narrow lot pattern. Generic “open space” is rejected in favor of a constructed landscape of rooftop
gardens providing access to the units and a shared identity for residents.
HISTORY OF THE SITE
As part of the outer edge of the major bend in the Mississippi River, immediately downstream from the French Quarter, this
site emerged from its colonial plantation origins - now neighborhoods – extending from the river’s edge. Gridded extension
off the river’s tangent characterizes the urban form of New Orleans. The early urban development of the river’s edge was
supplanted by the railroad in the 19th century, and associated industrial development emerged parallel to the tracks. Most
of these sites are now abandoned along the river, although the flood control infrastructure remains a major influence on
riverside development. Sanborn maps over the history of New Orleans demonstrate the emergence and decline of this urban
and industrial landscape.
The Bywater neighborhood to the north contains many typical single-family, detached and attached houses, following several
of the long-standing New Orleans residential traditions. In particular, the Shotgun House and Creole Cottage can be found
in their numerous variations. Camelback Shotguns and Cornerstore typologies are prevalent throughout the immediate context.
These evolved traditions afford opportunities for transformation of the typologies to accommodate the expanded program and
density of this river’s edge site.
This proposal reintroduces connections that have been weakened in the Bywater neighborhood. The striated arrangement of
housing allows a continuous relationship between Chartres Street and the river’s edge. Parallel to the river, spaces
connect across the grain of the shotgun type housing forms, producing a woven urban fabric. Passages connect and engage
the housing units with the outdoor rooms and events.
Re-BUILD - STREETFRONT RETAIL AND COMMERCIAL
Mixed-use is crucial to the revitalization of neighborhoods in New Orleans. Along Chartres Street this produces a porous
edge with an alternating rhythm of built form and landscaped open space. This scheme also includes retail and limited
office functions along the streets, with housing above and in the mid-block situation. The Tulane City Center is introduced
along Montegut Street.
Diverse housing options are provided among the 160 units including one-bedroom, two bedroom, three bedroom, live-work,
and efficiency units. 32 units are affordable and mixed among the market-rate housing. 43 units are handicapped accessible
(including the penthouse). There are functional distributions among the various unit sizes, but perhaps more importantly,
this scheme develops transformations of New Orleans residential typologies. This scheme increases the density of
development over traditional neighborhoods, but it does so in full recognition of the way that traditional or vernacular
forms can serve to produce a more environmentally responsive condition. Shotgun houses and Camelback conditions in
particular have influenced the development of linear housing units with broad exposure to light and air, mediated by
open space oriented in a north-south direction.
Gardens are provided on 4 levels of the scheme’s sectional development. Grade parking and the need to elevate housing
combine to allow a constructed landscape of interwoven gardens. Interspersed within the site are areas where trees are
planted on the firm ground, while the remainder of the landscape strategy involves a reconstituted ground planes.
The strategy for this project addresses several fundamental issues in support of environmental sensitivity and sustainable principles:
• Ventilation & Porosity
• Sun shading for structures
• Landscape Shading – various tree types
• Geothermal heat pumps
• Ground water retention & cisterns
Individual buildings are designed to make use of innovative glazing and enclosure systems that ventilate and insulate while
maximizing light to the individual units. The construction process itself, through the use of prefabricated components,
minimizes the environmental impact of this phase of work. Photovoltaic panels are integrated into the south façades.
Dimensional standardization supports both economy and ease of construction. At the same time, a great deal of variation
is introduced in fenestration, roof forms, and three-dimensional expression. A concrete wall and frame system supports
a concrete plank datum one floor above grade. This allows for protection from moisture and insects, and deals effectively
with fire separation issues between the residential construction and the parking below. The independence of the individual
housing bars would allow them to be easily phased. Construction of the market units over time would increase the
likelihood of a varied expression by multiple designers. Precast concrete frames and slabs are set in place. Bathrooms,
kitchens and closet areas are delivered to the site in completed packages ready to be hoisted into place. The building
skin arrives in panelized components ready for installation. Yet pre-fabrication does not mean fewer choices. “Mass
customization” offers each dwelling’s owner to adjust their home’s service core to their specific needs. They can
adjust the layout and select their cabinetry and finishes. There are also choices regarding fenestration pattern, sun
porches and balconies. Such options are currently available in manufactured consumer products from automobiles to
sneakers. This technology is poised to be extended to high quality dwelling components.
DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY - AFFORDABILITY
Both affordability and diversity are leveraged through the inclusion many unit types including the two extremes in the
housing market: studio dwellings of 630sf for occupants of limited means are provided as well as 2000 sf three-bedroom
duplex units with generous interior and exterior living spaces and river views. 20% of the units are planned as affordable
rentals or purchased residences. Prefabrication promotes the affordability of housing both on this site and other
developing sites in the city. Manufacturing facilities should be located within New Orleans to provide jobs and support
the local tax base. Retail will also support local sales tax revenue and will help to generate the full packaging of
finance for the project.
This development achieves a density of 51 units/acre in addition to the other functions housed on this site. At this
level of development, transit and small-scale retail functions can be easily and viably accommodated. Within relatively
flood free zones of New Orleans, particularly the areas of historic development along the Mississippi River’s edge will
need to be developed at a higher level of intensity to contribute effectively to the larger revitalization effort of the city.
This scheme honors the persistence and courage of New Orleans citizens who have endured so much and who are determined
to rebuild their city. We admire their view toward the future by sharing a sense of optimism and hope.