Checking in on New Orleans

The Atlantic Monthly has an interesting article about the architectural developments in the rebuilding of New Orleans, “Houses of the Future” by Wayne Curtis. Given the virtual absence of concentrated federal, state, or city re-development (except for wholesale demolition), a variety of private groups, including Brad Pitt’s Make It Right and Global Green, have begun rebuilding in little clusters, each with its own architectural philosophy: Green, New Urbanism, Traditionalism, and even Modernism thrown in for good measure.

Here’s a little clip from the intro:

The architectural historian James Marston Fitch wrote more than a half century ago that great leaps forward in architecture occur when three factors—theory, material, and technique—come into alignment under the pressure of social change. Such “golden moments of equilibrium,” as he called them, are “brief in time, special in character, delicate in balance.” He noted that such moments produced the Crystal Palace, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower.

We may be in one of those moments now, with notions of modern design, advances in green materials, and the technical imperatives of sustainability all converging toward a great leap in urban architecture. The architecture writer Andrew Blum has asked whether the Brad Pitt Houses could “become for the single-family green house what Seaside was for New Urbanism or Pacific Palisades was for California Modernism”—that is, a project that recasts the possible for the next generation of architects and developers. As seems fitting for such a moment, most of the construction projects under way in New Orleans are informed by seemingly conflicting strands of utopianism. But their designers are coming to some common, and edifying, conclusions.

The article tours five different houses and explores their philosophies, and it makes me want to tour them myself and see what the architectural historians of the future will be writing articles about. Make sure to click on the interactive map where you can see pictures and find where the houses are. I think I need to take a drive down to NOLA and check it out.

Categories: Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina

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