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Panel 3: The Architecture of Reconstruction
Saturday, October 24th, 1 pm – 3:45 pm

Commentators
Anthony Fontenot
Scott Ruff

Matthew Berman, “GreeN.O.LA: a Model Block for Holy Cross”— The Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans, sponsored by Brad Pitt and Global Green USA, set out to redefine building in the Gulf Coast from the ground up. It was the first large scale, privately funded redevelopment project after the disaster. It is an ambitious project that, in its infancy, sought to reconcile factors so disparate and often opposed that even many of the experts involved questioned the viability of the master plan. By definition it is to be a model block in Holy Cross that acts as a catalyst for every scale of rebuilding throughout the neighborhood, the city, and beyond, and it is to demonstrate sustainable, affordable, and practical responses to those living in areas directly affected by the consequences of global climate change. It struggles between being a panacea and a focused response to a specific set of local circumstances. This is the crisis of the model block. As a planning strategy, the model block is a repository for utopian ideals; as a practical proposition, however, decisions must be made that favor one direction or another.

Tom Darden, “Make It Right”—The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and delay in reconstruction created an unprecedented demand for innovative building solutions. How does a country avoid making the mistakes of the past while turning tragedy into an opportunity by rebuilding sustainable houses and communities? Make It Right, the organization founded by actor Brad Pitt, set out to help rebuild Lower Ninth Ward by combining previously irreconcilable approaches to build homes that are safe, high-quality, green, and affordable. By using pioneering designs, materials, and engineering approaches, Make It Right is now succeeding in building affordable homes inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking and high-quality design. 

James Dart, “Reposition in Place”—We are the architects for Acorn Housing in a city redevelopment project slated to create prefabricated housing for as many as 400 sites in New Orleans. In part, this talk will offer a case study in stalled agency. In part, it will concern the future of prefabricated housing in contributing to the quest to transform challenged ground into sustainable community. New Orleans is a testing ground for prefabrication because the landscape asserts complex local site demands on a form of housing that, by definition, ought to be able to be erected anywhere because it is conceived to be the same everywhere. Our work goes beneath the sill plate to invent ways to overcome the alienation between prefabricated thinking and its environmental ground plane.

Deborah Gans, “Plum Orchard Mon Amour”—A territorial struggle emerged in part from the storm, but also from habitual design thinking that relies on infrastructural projects determined by top-down planning to control the environment and on individual self-determination to exercise the politics of community. We have worked with the citizens of Plum Orchard to develop incremental adaptations to new environmental and social factors, beginning with the backyard and scaling up to assemblies of blocks, in order to change the performance of the typical suburban settlement pattern. While the model could potentially benefit the many coastal developments that are bound to be affected by global warming, here it engages lower-income populations who often inhabit marginal, vulnerable, low-lying areas.

Michael P. Kelly, “Building Better Neighborhoods”—The biggest lesson learned after reconstructing major sections of Washington D.C. in the last 10 years is that there is no cookie-cutter solution to building healthy, sustainable communities within the context of a major urban center. There are, however, lessons learned and processes that can help planners avoid major pitfalls even in times of upheaval.

Byron Mouton, “Still Searching for Higher Ground”—Addressing issues of neighborhood revitalization at the scale of “domestic infill,” the presentation will focus on the work of URBANbuild and the work of my office bildDESIGN. These various projects, which have all been completed since Katrina, allow for an opportunity to address techniques of teaching that rely upon the overlap of professional practice and research. The collaboration with Lauren Anderson’s Neighborhood Housing Services and my professional involvement with the Make It Right Foundation will also be addressed.

James Steele, “Can Spectacle Save New Orleans?”—The physical and social results of the legacy of misery left by Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast four years ago, are still evident. Disruption and displacement are far from having been completely alleviated. And yet, several high profile projects, such as Morphosis’s Jazz Museum and other, similar civic interventions have been put forward as solutions to the city’s plight. The official attitude seems to be, “Never mind that thousands are still homeless and that miles of levees need strengthening and replacing, let's have spectacle instead! The Bilbao effect will solve the problem.” This presentation will examine the implications of such an approach. There have recently been several high-profile public projects proposed for New Orleans by Starchitects such as Morphosis, MVRDV, and UN Studio, among others. The Deus Ex Machina of spectacular architecture will save the day! Or will it? This seems to be the high water mark (pun intended) of arrogance and the supreme test of the Bilbao effect.