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House Prototype by Graft, New Orleans, USA

A metamorposis of modern and traditional in Graft’s prototype for the rebuilding of New Orleans’ housing and communities. Photography by Virginia Miller

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The slow reaction to the initial emergency and the subsequent crisis of displacement exposed the US government’s response capabilities. In the aftermath, areas such as the city’s Lower Ninth Ward seemed beyond all hope of being rebuilt. However, the mission of Make It Right - a not-for-profit coalition of architects, planners and developers founded by actor Brad Pitt - is to be a catalyst for the safe and sustainable redevelopment of such apparently untenable districts.

The emphasis is on design quality, while preserving the spirit of the local community and the goal is to build quickly, so residents can return to their homes as soon as possible.

Graft’s proposal for housing in the Lower Ninth merges metaphorical abstractions of traditional and modern architecture in search of a more resonant new whole. The starting point is a traditional New Orleans housing type, the long, narrow shotgun house, which is abstractly represented through an almost exaggerated, gable roof and generous front porch. The houses are conceived as prefabricated, modular units that can be assembled in just two weeks.

The fluidity of the relationship between home and community along with the provision of areas designated to interaction between neighbours and friends are vital to social cohesion. Just as crucially, the house is designed to survive an 8ft flood, with its rear morphing into a flat roof and providing a strategy for what the architects describe as ‘passive survivability’, should the unthinkable reoccur.

Architect Graft, Los Angeles, USA

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