Architects from eight firms, ranging from a young New Orleans collective to world-renowned Gehry Partners, currently are racing to finish schematic designs for Make It Right.

In mid-March the organization, founded by actor Brad Pitt to rebuild 150 houses in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, tapped the firms to contribute additional designs to the effort. Their visions will be released June 20.

In addition to Gehry Partners, the firms include William McDonough + Partners, Atelier Hitoshi Abe, Los Angeles–based Kappe Architects/Planners, the Chilean studio Elemental, and three New Orleans firms—Bild Design, buildingstudio, and Waggoner & Ball Architects. There was no official competition; rather, the architects were selected through informal recommendations from Pitt and longtime Make It Right consultants McDonough and the Los Angeles-based firm Graft.

In 2007 Pitt commissioned 13 architects, including the local firm Billes Architects and international star Shigeru Ban, to design houses for his highly publicized Make It Right project. In its composition of local, American, and overseas firms, the latest roster of architects bears similarity to the first-round selections. “Local architects know the region, they know the climate and culture of the city, they’re a step ahead,” says Make It Right executive director Tom Darden. “It’s important to mix that experience with the innovative national and international firms that may apply new design perspective to the Lower Ninth Ward.”

Although the forthcoming schematics will abide by the same affordability and Cradle-to-Cradle sustainability criteria as Make It Right’s inaugural designs, they differ in building type. Unlike the single-family houses proposed originally, this second batch features only duplex buildings. Darden says he and Pitt have fielded repeated calls for the traditional, two-unit house from members of the Lower Ninth Ward community, and that duplexes’ ability to generate supplementary income will help residents secure affordable financing. Each should cost approximately $200,000 to erect. 

Make It Right has raised funds to sponsor 91 homes; eight are finished already, and another 13 are in various stages of execution. The organization will make construction drawings for one of the new designs as soon as it is selected by a resident. Darden hopes to break ground on 10 houses every month hereafter, and to complete as many as 100 homes by the end of this year.

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