Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Debate on the Make It Right Houses

I've been reading some of the comments posted on in response to the prospective designs for the Make It Right houses.

I feel conflicted about the houses.

The poster that really gets it for me:

Many of the designs presented here seem too caught up in a "modern" aesthetic or a signature design flourish that really has nothing to do with being green. A little humility would go a long way toward improving them.
Here, a poster echoes my feelings about the "Escape House" (though with a bit more vitriol):
Insulting. What did these guys do, look at the wreckage after the storm and say, "Hey, let's make brand new houses that look like they were just hit by a hurricane and landed on their inhabitants car," just so we could relive all the memories? This is what I mean when I say architects are in it more for themselves that the people of N.O. They should be ashamed of themselves for even submitting this monstrosity.
Poster "deadguy" writes:

There's one thing that we need to keep in mind and as cliche as it may be "Form follows function." Most of the designs neglect to address the function that the houses, specifically the entry, have played in this community for the past 100 years. The front porch of a shotgun house is a stage; a place to see and be seen, to socialize. It must be readily accessible and visible from all sides.

He's right; I'm thinking of the house with the walled-in computerized BBQ in the Adjaye design.

"Stunola" writes:

The designs are evocative, but not of New Orleans.


Then again, I agree with poster "jhgator1":
As for the aesthetics, they are not for everyone. However, i am a firm believer that New Orleans needs a breath of fresh air from a design standpoint. Yes, you can honor the past, but when you start copying it, all you will wind up with is just that....a cheap copy. People need to be a little more open minded when it comes to designing a new New Orleans. This mentality seems to creep into everything we do here.

I'm sure this comment is something we've all heard before..."that isn't how we do things here", or "this is how it has always been done". That mentality is what is holding us back in New Orleans.

See? I'm conflicted.

I wouldn't call all of the homes a "miss," but I do wonder about the process that was referred to repeatedly in the press conference--the process of "listening" to the residents. From the MIR's Vision Statement:

Make It Right has had the good fortune of meeting many such resilient families throughout the process of helping to rebuild the neighborhood.
What happened at those meetings? Were residents asked what they liked about their former homes? What they'd like to see in new ones? What they'd like not to see? When I was walking through the containers at the site two days ago, I noticed that there was nothing on display to highlight the process. Given the appearance of these homes (and of their "sterile" interiors populated by prim settees and a preponderance of bookshelves), I just can't see the results of a good hard "listen" in the designs.

What bothers me (again) is that the designers seem so resolutely convinced that good design can be accomplished only by credentialed architects. But never have I lived in a design that more accurately reflected ME than when I was given the license to create. I wonder how the homes would look had the designers first solicited drawings and specs from the homeowners.

Wouldn't it be nice to know that the homeowners really did have a say in the creation of the homes' function AND aesthetic?

How did the creative/creation process really take place? I wish MIR had made that more clear.

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