Share the Make It Right NOLA designs - Or Not?
Why should Brad Pitt be asked to share these designs with my community and how many could benefit from them?
Perhaps it is just my Contrarian nature, but I do not think he should .
Before you start wondering how many marbles I have left, let me explain. These homes were designed to address a very specific need in a very specific area; in fact they were designed to meet the needs of a very specific neighborhood.. There was a process employed that involved hours of consultation among architects, planners, and residents to determine what they needed and wanted in homes. This was a neighborhood that had one of the highest percentages of home ownership in the country. Many of these homes had been passed down through generations. These designs are not appropriate for any other area except in one very important way. THEIR PRINCIPLES AND CONCEPT are a model that should definitely be emulated IMHO.
From the Make It Right NOLA website:
In keeping with Make It Right's overarching priority to work in cooperation with former residents of the Lower 9th Ward, the approach to new home design began directly with the homeowners themselves. Because local cultural influences gave rise to the pre-Katrina architecture so emblematic of the area, preserving that identity remains vital in reclaiming the spirit of the neighborhood. MIR's goal is to join the history of this tradition with creative new architectural solutions mindful of environmental and personal safety concerns in order to encourage both the evolution of aesthetic distinctiveness and the conscientious awareness of natural surroundings.
I live in the Desert Southwest. The only floods we are likely to see with the exception of a broken dam is an arroyo gone mad in a flash flood. The safety issues are very real but they are also very different. Our climate is hot and extremely dry. Humid days are a rarity.
The thing which most needs to be shared about these homes in addition to the fact that they still need to be built is contained in that paragraph. One of the problems we have created is our tendency to globalize everything. The old adages to Think Globally, Act Locally is perhaps the idea we need to apply here. If Brad Pitt or anyone else were to encourage other groups of people in other communities to come together the way that the Make It Right project came together and share the process of developing their designs, there could be real progress toward creating affordable housing and putting people to work again to build it.
Adobe has been the building material of choice here for several reasons not the least of which are it's indigenous characteristics- It is generally made from soil from the site, it is low cost and provides great insulation and thermal mass. Rammed earth and various permutations of lightweight concrete or insulated concrete forms are the closest modern technologies to this traditional material and they meet the criteria of "local cultural influence:
This is a picture of the Aztec Ruins thought to have been built in the 11th century.
this is the Santa Ana Pueblo Mission Church built in the mid 1700s
There are approximately 6,000 people counted as homeless in the statistics I could find in Bernalillo County which contains the bulk of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area. I emphasize counted because there are many who are not included in the numbers just as there are many unemployed who are not included in the official statistics. This also does not include those living in substandard housing or living with relatives because they have no other place to go. These are people who could benefit from participating in a plan to create workforce housing, infill development and cohousing projects using the cradle to cradle principles employed in the Make It Right houses and designed not for the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans but for the neighborhoods in which they live. Cradle to Cradle principles call for ecologically intelligent design that fits the environment around it. In a climate with single digit humidity, evaporative cooling makes a lot more sense that in a place like New Orleans. Is it the best choice for a given site? Maybe, maybe not. That's why the real take away from Make It Right NOLA is the process of deciding what to build based on who is going to be living in it and where, very specifically, it is located.
There are many people who work at full time jobs who cannot afford housing. I am not talking about people who have been laid off and are facing foreclosure. I am talking about people who work in day care, elder care and service jobs like housekeeping, fast food and gas station attendants. Low maintenance homes with healthy air quality not only give them more money and more time to spend with family instead of working on the house, it means fewer medical bills which is a huge relief when you have no insurance. Water and water quality are huge issues in the desert southwest. Wars have been fought over water rights and legal battles still rage today. Water is a scarce commodity here in the desert and while putting a rain barrel on a house in the Lower 9th Ward, here they provide an option for watering a vegetable garden or a fruit tree. Did I mention lower grocery bills?
The other group that comes immediately to mind are the reservations surrounding where I live. If Hyatt can build a resort like this in cooperation with the pueblo, it is certainly possible to design homes that reflect the Hogan of the Dine (Navajo) Nation
This is a picture of a traditional Dine Hogan on the Navajo Nation from a brochure about the Nation.
This is a picture of a modern Deltec Home from and advertising brochure for Deltec Homes.....
There is a continuity here that fits the vernacular. These buildings do not belong in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans any more than the homes designed for homes in the Lower Ninth Ward belong here. What they can and should share is a faithfulness to their location and the people meant to occupy them. What Brad Pitt and his project have to offer if they choose is insight into the process they used to work with the displaced residents in order to develop a design that provided exactly what they wanted and needed in a home while also incorporating Cradle to Cradle principles and safety enhancements geared to the environment in which they are built.