This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "Rob Walker on the Mistakes of Brad Pitt's Make it Right."
I will start with a confession: I was part of the fawning media swarm that lauded and applauded the accomplishments of Make It Right, Brad Pitt’s bold attempt to rebuild a portion of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. The project was, it seemed once, one of the few post-Katrina success stories coming out of that flood-ravaged community.
The international practice GRAFT is known for its experimental and interdisciplinary designs as well as for its strong social commitment. The publication documents projects characteristic of this social responsibility portraying architecture as an active tool for driving the development of places worth living in. One key project is the Solar Kiosk, a high-output, which is already used by many communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 can never be forgotten, but 10 years after the rebuilding of New Orleans started in 2006, a new architecture has emerged with cutting-edge designs being widely celebrated in the media. The Make It Right foundation (founded after the disaster to help with structural recovery) commissioned first-class architects such as Morphosis, Shigeru Ban, and David Adjaye to design safe and sustainable houses for New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. But Richard Campanella and Cassidy Rosen worry that this vision is detached from reality.
In a recent interview with NOLA, Pitt discusses some of these criticisms, reflecting on the growth of the organization, and the changes it has made. Find out about Pitt’s evolving perspective, after the break.
Make It Right, the organization formed by Brad Pitt that builds affordable and sustainable houses for people in need, has released a series of new single-family home designs by local architects to expand their efforts in Kansas City, Missouri. The new homes will become part of Make it Right's established work in Manheim Park, complementing the affordable housing and community complex opened by the organization in 2013.
In the last few weeks, a number of reactionary architectural commentators have come out of the woodwork to denounce what they see as the currently negative direction of contemporary architecture. They claim that architecture needs to be “rebuilt” or that it is “imploding.” From their indications, architecture is on life-support, taking its last breath. The critique they offer is that contemporary architecture has become (or always was?) insensitive to users, to site conditions, to history—hardly a novel view. Every few years, this kind of frontal assault on the value of contemporary architecture is launched, but the criticisms this time seem especially shallow and misplaced. Surveying the contemporary global architecture scene, I actually feel that we’re in a surprisingly healthy place, if you look beyond the obvious showpieces. We’ve escaped from the overt dogmas of the past, we’ve renewed our focus on issues of the environment and social agency, we’re more concerned than ever with tectonics and how to build with quality. But the perennial critics of contemporary architecture appear not to have examined that deeply, nor that thoughtfully either. And unfortunately the various rebuttals to their critiques, ostensibly in support of modern and experimental architecture, have been ham-handed and poorly argued.
"Architecture is suffering a crisis of confidence,” stated Shubow in his recent Forbes article. “It is never easy to admit that one is mistaken, still worse that one’s god has failed. It is all the harder when one’s false worldview has been the justification for one’s high social rank. But the growing crisis of confidence is a sign that a cherished dogma will finally be abandoned: The superiority of the architect to the common man.”
The organization is planning to build 20 new homes on the reservation, as well as developing a sustainable masterplan for the entire 3,300 square mile reservation, with construction planned to start later this year.
More on the development of Make It Right's Fort Peck initiative after the break.
The Make It Right organization, Brad Pitt's LEED and Cradle-to-Cradle inspired efforts to bring sustainable homes to communities in need, is probably best none for its much publicized work in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in the post-Hurrican Katrina climate. But the breadth of this organization's work stretches beyond this community rebuilding project. Make It Right has worked within several disadvantaged communities in an effort to build sustainable and supportive homes and neighborhoods through the development of residences, community centers and infrastructural elements, and by providing training and counseling.
MIR is working in Newark, New Jersey bringing residences to disabled veterans; in Kansas city, Montana the organization is rebuilding a blighted community within the neighborhood of Manheim Park; and most recently is partnering with Sioux and Assiniboine Native American tribe members to build sustainable homes on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana.
Ever since the New Republic published Lydia DePillis's piece entitled "If you Rebuild it, They Might Not Come" - a criticism of the progress of Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation - numerous blogs and journals have been in a uproar, defending Make It Right's efforts at rebuilding the vastly devastated Lower Ninth Ward and presenting a much more forgiving perspective on the progress of the neighborhood since the engineering disaster that exacerbated the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. To date, 86 LEED Platinum homes have been designed and constructed by world-renowned architects including Frank Gehry and Morphosis, at a cost of approximately $24 million. Make It Right has promised to build up to 150 such homes, but DePillis's article points out how amenities in the neighborhood are low and how the number of residents returning to the neighborhood is dwindling. Make It Right has made a commitment and the debate that ensues questions whether it is going far enough in delivering its promise to rebuilding community.
Since Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, leaving devastation in its wake, the Make It Right Foundation has been working to redevelop the Lower 9th Ward by recruiting world-renowned architects (from Frank Gehry to Shigeru Ban) to the cause. The foundation, the brain-child of actor Brad Pitt, aims to design houses that aren't just temporary solutions, but rather parts of an on-going process of sustainable, community development.
Learn more about the Make It Right Foundation's goals and progress, and check out some of the starchitect-deisgned prototypes that will eventually make up a 150-house neighborhood, in our ArchDaily original infographic, after the break.
When we introduced you to the Bancroft School in September, the topic of one of the SEED Network's awesome mini-documentaries, or SEEDocs, the revitalization project was still in development. However, this Saturday's ground-breaking ceremony means that this innovative community complex will soon be a reality.
The building, which was an elementary school from 1904 until it fell into disrepair and closed in 1999, is located in one of Kansas City's most neglected, lower income neighborhoods: Manheim Park. However, thanks to the joint-efforts of the Make It Right Foundation, BNIM Architects (the AIA’s 2011 Firm of the Year), and the Historic Manheim Park Neighborhood Association, the once asbestos-ridden school will soon be the center of a revitalization project to transform the urban landscape.
Make It Right is proud to announce the completion of the Frank Gehry-designed, New Orleans’ duplex in the Lower 9th Ward. The colorful, LEED Platinum home is part of an affordable and sustainable community that is currently being developed by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation within the NOLA neighborhood most devastated from Hurricane Katrina.
“I really believe in what Brad is doing for the community and was honored to be included,” said Frank Gehry. “I wanted to make a house that I would like to live in and one that responded to the history, vernacular and climate of New Orleans. I love the colors that the homeowner chose. I could not have done it better.”
We have told you in the past about Brad Pitt´s Make It Right Foundation. They have been working with a group of international architects to redevelop the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, after hurricane Katrina. The name of the foundation addresses the desire of Pitt, architecture enthusiast, to design these houses the best way and not just as a temporary solution, in a process that also included working not only with these renowned firms, but also very close with the community, with a focus on sustainable development.
GRAFT was one of the first practices that started working with Make It Right to redevelop the Lower 9th Ward area in New Orleans. Their single family home design has been picked by 3 homeowners so far, with 2 already finished and 1 in construction phase.