Back in March, I reported that Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation threw itself a giant, star-studded soiree (read: fundraiser) to celebrate the fact that the ambitious redevelopment project had slowly but surely reached the half-way mark: 150 affordable, sustainable, and storm-resistant homes had been completed in the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in an effort to revitalize the community and lure residents back to the area.
At the time, nine additional Make It Right homes were under construction. Now, the most highly anticipated of those nine — or perhaps of all Make It Right homes — has been completed and unveiled to the public. A total of 21 architectural firms from across the globe are involved with Make It Right. Several of them are homegrown firms including bild Design, Billes Architecture, buildingstudio, and Waggonner & Ball Architects. Several others firms — MVRDV, William McDonough + Partners, KierenTimberlake Associates, and Shigeru Ban Architects to name a few — are internationally renowned sustainable design heavyweights.
However, only one Make It Right architect has had the distinction of appearing as himself on “The Simpsons.” That, of course, would be Frank Gehry (aka “the architect that people who don’t know anything about architecture are familiar with”).
Los Angeles-based Gehry Partner’s just-unveiled Make It Right contribution, a pink- and lilac-colored duplex at 1750 Tennessee St. that the Times-Picayune is already dubbing the “undisputed prima donna” of the Make It Right neighborhood, is the only Gehry building in Louisiana and only one of 22 residences nationwide designed by the starchitect responsible for super-dramatic rubberneckers including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Seattle’s Experience Music Project, and the Dancing House in Prague (and, of course, there’s his controversial design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial which has been making headlines left and right).
Gehry’s Make It Right Home (it’s number 86) should prove to be a nice distraction from the hoopla surrounding the Eisenhower Memorial and, as pointed out by the Times-Picayune, will likely increase looky-loo foot traffic within the MIR development. Because where there's a Gehry, there's also a camera-wielding tourist. Of course, the LEED Platinum home’s pastel exterior paint scheme — colors chosen by Linda Santi, the home’s future resident, not by Gehry — certainly helps it stand out in a neighborhood already filled with eye-catching residences including Thomas Mayne's FLOAT House.
Says Gehry, 83, in a press release issued by the Make It Right Foundation:
I really believe in what Brad is doing for the community and was honored to be included. 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.
Aside from Santi's Easter-iffic color choices, the 1,780-square-foot double-shotgun-style structure is restrained by Gehry standards. The duplex — the front house has three bedrooms while the rear unit has one bedroom and one bathroom and will be used as a rental unit — boasts an array of eco-friendly features including recycled content countertops, Shaw Green Edge carpeting, low-E windows from Marvin, a super-efficient HVAC system from Unico, rot- and termite-resistant wood framing, zero-VOC paints from Benjamin Moore, natural ventilation, abundant daylighting, and Lumos LSX frameless solar modules that provide electricity, shade, and shelter from the rain (on a side note, the Lumos LSX canopy picked up the Best Energy Product at this year's Dwell on Design conference.) And, of course, the duplex boasts an ample amount of outdoor living space thanks to generously sized canopied porches, dual rooftop terraces, and yards.
While many Make It Right homes have been duplicated within the development, there are no current plans to duplicate the Gehry duplex design.
Observes Doug MacCash of the Times-Picayune:
The Gehry house may be the rosy new darling of the modernist enclave, but there’s nothing frilly or fussy about the clapboard-sided, tin-roofed design. Rather, the structure has a severe quality, with blocky stacked segments, steeply inclined exterior staircases, an abruptly flat awning on top. Aside from the whimsical colors, no effort has been made to soften or decorate the design. Yet there’s an ineffably playful aspect to the plan. To climb the stairs to the raised front porch, then ascend the narrow inside staircase to the broad second story balcony, then take the outside gangway to the shaded third-story upper deck, is like shimmying to a tree house. This is residential design the way Peter Pan might imagine it.
There's plenty more images of and info on the Frank Gehry MIR home over at the Times-Picayune including a few words from Linda Santi. As mentioned, Santi purchased the entire duplex and will be renting out the smaller unit. Apparently, Santi is no stranger to living in architectural significant, tourist-attracting homes as her pre-Katrina residence was one of the historic Doullut "steamboat houses" in the Holy Cross neighborhood. Santi lived in a FEMA trailer in the wake of Katrina before returning to her rental in Holy Cross after it was repaired. Now she'll be taking up residence in Louisiana's one and only Frank Gehry-designed abode. "You know when you’re taking out the garbage, chances are good that someone’s taking a picture. That’s the way it’s been and will be," she says.