Housing for New Orleans by David Adjaye, Morphosis, MVRDV, Shigeru Ban and others


Actor Brad Pitt has signed up thirteen architectural practices - including Adjaye Architects (above and below), Morphosis, MVRDV and Shigeru Ban Architects - for the Make It Right housing project in New Orleans.

The project, initiated by Pitt in 2006, aims to develop sustainable and affordable housing in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

The aim is to construct 150 houses on the site which will be ecologically responsible, safe, affordable and have a high quality of design.

Above: Adjaye Architects, London, England

The designs, by a mixture of local New Orleans architects, US firms and international companies, are based on traditional New Orleans housing types such as the Shotgun, the Camelback and the Creole Cottage, combined with targets for safety in the area and Cradle to Cradle design principles.

Above and 2 images below: Constructs - Accra, Ghana

The following text is from Make It Right:



Make It Right’s goal is to join the history of the Lower 9th Ward with creative new architectural solutions mindful of environmental and personal safety concerns in order to encourage both the evolution of aesthetic distinctiveness and the conscientious awareness of natural surroundings.

To that end, MIR assembled a team of fourteen local, national and international world-renowned architecture firms specializing in innovative, ecologically responsible design.

Local: Billes Architects – New Orleans, LA; Eskew Dumez Ripple – New Orleans, LA; Concordia – New Orleans, LA; Trahan Architects – Baton Rouge, LA; John Williams Architects – New Orleans, LA

Below: Graft - Berlin, Germany

National: BNIM – Kansas City, MO; Kieran Timberlake - Philadelphia, PA; Morphosis – Santa Monica, CA; Pugh + Scarpa – Santa Monica, CA.

International: Adjaye Architects – London, England; Constructs – Accra, Ghana; Graft – Berlin, Germany; MVRDV – Rotterdam, Holland; Shigeru Ban Architects – Tokyo, Japan

Designs :

In keeping with Make It Right (MIR)’s overarching priority to work in cooperation with former residents of the Lower 9th Ward, the approach to new home design began directly with the homeowners themselves. Because local cultural influences gave rise to the pre-Katrina architecture so emblematic of the area, preserving that identity remains vital in reclaiming the spirit of the neighborhood. MIR’s goal is to join the history of this tradition with creative new architectural solutions mindful of environmental and personal safety concerns in order to encourage both the evolution of aesthetic distinctiveness and the conscientious awareness of natural surroundings.

Below: MVRDV - Rotterdam, Netherlands

The architects were given a typology study that included traditional New Orleans housing types such as the Shotgun, the Camelback and the Creole Cottage along with current ideas and recommendations for the target area in the Lower 9th Ward. The MIR team produced a set of guidelines for the houses that set metrics for the final design to insure that the specific goals of the MIR organizations were met. The team is also using Cradle to Cradle thinking to guide and inspire design and materials selection for new homes in the Lower 9th Ward.

The four main guiding principles for the designs are safety, affordability, sustainability and high design quality.


In December 2006, Brad Pitt convened a group of experts in New Orleans to brainstorm about building green affordable housing on a large scale to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Having spent time with community leaders and displaced residents determined to return home, Pitt realized that an opportunity existed to build houses that were not only stronger and healthier, but that had less impact on the environment.

Below: Shigeru Ban Architects - Tokyo, Japan

Previously, Pitt sponsored an architecture competition organized by Global Green with the goal of generating ideas about how to rebuild sustainably. Several of those designs are currently under construction in the Lower 9th Ward and the project inspired him to expand his efforts.

After discussing the hurdles associated with rebuilding in a devastated area, the group determined that a large-scale redevelopment project focused on green affordable housing and incorporating innovative design was indeed possible.

The group settled on the goal of constructing 150 homes (one of the larger rebuilding projects in the city), with an emphasis on developing an affordable system that could be replicated.

Below: BNIM - Kansas City, MO

To demonstrate replicability, Pitt determined to locate the project in the Lower 9th Ward, one of the most devastated areas of New Orleans, proving that safe homes could and should be rebuilt. Pitt hopes that this project would be a catalyst for recovery and redevelopment throughout the Lower 9th Ward and across the city of New Orleans.

Having listened to one former resident's plea to help "make this right," Pitt was inspired to name the project "Make It Right" (MIR).

Below: Kieran Timberlake - Philadelphia, PA

Below: Morphosis - Santa Monica, CA

Below: Pugh + Scarpa - Santa Monica, CA

Below: Billes Architects - New Orleans, LA

Below: Eskew Dumez Ripple - New Orleans, LA

Below: Concordia - New Orleans, LA

Below: Trahan Architects - Baton Rouge, LA

Posted on Wednesday January 23rd 2008 at 3:15 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • rodger

    MVRDV – Rotterdam, Netherlands
    what an insult your solution is to people that lived through katrina.
    get a grip. i couldn’t imagine a solution more off base and offensive.
    you don’t deserve to be considered for a project like this.
    somehow you believe a serious response to a serious problem of re housing people effected by this disaster is playtime. go back to the netherlands.

  • Blake

    Why do most of the renderings have modern furniture in them? I really hate to see jazzed up renderings for a project located in the lower 9th. Yes, these projects should involve good design, both aesethically and in the actual use of the target resident. These are not meant to be trendy homes for Prius driving, modern furniture buying yuppies, but residents that lost most of everything they had and probably can’t afford the luxury of purchasing a Corbu knock off chair to be displaying. Thanks to those that took this as an approach to a real problem and not just a display of work that their firm is able to produce for any client.

  • roadkill

    darn… these guys have been real hard at work [!]… i guess someone forgot to tell MVRDV their project was broken….

  • mekaratta

    look at MVRDV’s proposal, I really want Herricane blow out my house now.

  • r.n

    I’d like to see the MVRDV wind tunnel test results…

  • floyd landis

    The new residents will need to be pretty wealthy to afford these. The author never said the designs were afordable.

  • hey rodger, set your bigotism aside and look at the design before making a comment that suggests a design is “offensive”

    go easy on MVRDV – they have made very successful housing desins in the past. Here, they arent the only firm making ridiculous gestures. If you examine the MVRDV section, its not that playful. Much less playful and useless than Morphosis’s and Trahan’s roof designs, and certainly less wasteful than pugh + scarpa’s design.

    if only you had the time to look at the designs more carfeully, instead of wasting your time making a foolish comment.

  • Jimmy

    I think most of these designs have a whiff of superstar architect about them, with the typically irrelevant formal flourishes. There are quite a few interesting self build relief housing projects in the States – they never make the design mags. MVRDV’s design in this context appears appropriate for what is ostensibly an attention seeking vanity project.

  • M.Ostapiuk (Poland)

    It seems that most of the designers have missed the point. I fear these funky, technicolor, expensively furnitured houses – if ever built – will simply suffer from budget cutting (on materials, putting aside the details, etc) and they will not look so nice in real. I'm not after designing some cheap shacks, but most of the projects above do not look like compromise between economy and affordability.

    And I do agree that MVDRV proposal bears a metaphore which is a little bit "too much" considering a background of this project.

  • J

    For the record: MVRDV made several designs and this is ONE of them. Winy Maas showed them recently on dutch television and they’re all very different and exciting. About ‘The Bendhouse’ which is going to be built first: the idea is that the upper parts of the bend will protect the people from the water. A very simple and obvious aim. It will give the people a safer feeling.

    On this page you can see 5 designs: http://www.nrc.nl/kunst/article888340.ece/MVRDV_gaat_huizen_bouwen_in_New_Orleans

  • tina

    hey james,

    although I really like MVRDVs approach under normal circumstances:
    to design a house that looks as if it has been lifted by a strong wind FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS just does not seem very appropriate and sensitive to me.

  • Jasper Schaap

    What many don’t know, is the background of the plan of MVRDV, Winy Maas was on dutch television (main reason, why he was asked because of bradd pitt, but that on the side) He explained that they have made housing concepts, with in case of flooding again, people could maintain dry areas in their house. You talk here about 90,000 $ houses so high tech floating systems, like here in Holland are not affordable for that kind of housing, thats why 1 is like a valley, and the other is lifted up. I must say, for that kind of money and with a bit of humour I think these concepts are succesfull. So please, there’s is also a background with this architecture.

  • rodger

    the symbolism of the MVRDV’s project is abhorrent and inappropriate regardless of the poetics of the section.
    there is no need to look any further. really.
    oh, and thanks for calling me a bigot, you’re about as precise in your verbal abuse as MVRDV are appropriate with their symbolism.
    do you work for them?

  • cris

    l love Pitt’s project named shortly MIR – which means PEACE in russian language! So, l think some of the spirits from comments might calm?! :)
    l also like MVRDV’s concept as J said about the roof or Jasper Schaap said about maintaing dry areas in case of floods. l think dutch people are genetically used with these thoughts because of their under sea level country. l even saw they research some projects of floating houses on floating terrain for such causes when people needs something sustainable, affordable, good design (discutable) but also VERY FAST. Maybe tina doesn’t feel confortable with such landscape form of MVRDV’s housing, but l found it rather as a memory of the place than a scarry image…like the new environment created is placed in the context of what was happening there and still might happen. (hopefully not!) So…MIR!

  • hc

    Is it me, or have they missed the cultural/tradition aspect of these new homes? These are great ideas with a lot of compassion and sweat, but it is hard to see any of the history + community in these designs. They are very futuristic – not sure that look/style/feel is right for the 9th ward. Where’s the music, the soul, the craw fish? I mean, how do these structures communicate some of the most vital elements of that community?

    Again – it is a great effort, but would love to see more of the community embraced in the designs.

  • Blake

    I thought these homes weren’t for sale, but a donation to the past home owner? That’s what I got from the MIR website….what else would the millions of dollars of donated money go to? I don’t think anyone could just walk up and ask to buy the MVRDV house.

  • jxd

    on the MVRDV proposal: people often meet tragedy with humor…it’s a very human way of coping with forces well beyond our control.

    i may not love the MVRDV proposal; however, in most cases acknowledging the seriousness of a catastrophe shouldn’t become so sacrosanct that we can’t still thumb our noses at the fates.

    at least when MVRDV breaks geometry they’re in on the joke. libeskind trots out broken forms for every project…as if this strategy is as equally profound for museums and developer-driven towers.

    the real question is whether or not MVRDV’s design is simply a one-line joke / critique of the human predicament or a strategy that also produces an interesting space to live in.

  • Bonzo

    all the designs are one liners and have no real relevance to the issues being discussed. Thay all also look as though they were pulled directly from a property developers scrapbook – souless and missing the point entirely.

  • J

    To answer the question of jxd: the designs of MVRDV are a strategy that also produces interesing spaces to live in.

    They designed simple (=cheap) houses in several shapes. And all of these shapes are meant to protect the people from the water. Nothing more, nothing less. And of course the shapes are producing interesting interiors.

    So, in my opinion, the main points of the designs are: costs, protection against the water and interesting forms.

  • Andrew

    While this project might provide some good solutions for housing in flood-prone areas, I think it misses the point. It was supposed to provide New Orleans residents with a sense of place. However, these designs look like they could be anywhere in the world. If it was just the images on their own, I’d have no idea this was New Orleans.

    Some interesting solutions proposed, nonetheless.


    i agree with andrew. shouldn’t these be units be more about the collective… about the community?

  • Dirty Bird

    I have to say as much as I love the thought ,the hopefully cost efficiency of these stricking proposals..not one of the speaks to the old N.Orleans.. They are fresh new and frankly a bit out of sorts. Perhaps these designs repesent the New N.Orleans.

    A modern Utopia of raceless inhabitants with designer tastes and shoe string budgets making the world a better place one community and several Starchitects later.

    They look to me a bit more like the foreign tourists( those from anywhere other than N.Orleans ) at Trombone shorties’ formerly of the ninth who walked in during the daylight hours and couldnt leave without an escort at night( for their own good though) . They love the place, they respect the place but dont know the place even though they enjoy its presence and character. Pardon the phrase but House “workers ” are not family.

    Marie Antoinette made a little village so she could sample the flavor with impunity. I hope the rebuilding of N.orleans is not the same as the play village at Versailles; a replica of what once was, preserved in replica for those who could not particiapte becasue they could not ever be the minority.

    I will say two things that are unique to these proposals.. They have people with color in them …everywhere.. That is very rare.. Just look at the shapes and images that populate architectural magaizines and conceptual imagery . Ethicity is rarely represented. The second is that true affordable housing in any form is a fantastic occurence…making affordable housing withstand a hurricane , 100% humidity, provide a sense of shelter and community is down right difficult regardless of place and aesthetic.
    This a more than admirable beginning.

    Although not the native N.Orleans that was erased, its a N.Orleans that Marie Antoinette could be proud to present to her friends at parties.

    As admirable and accomplished this may be, it may seem no more than just a modern party favor for those that can to show that they too can have a heart . Even though its execution may whiff of the a “Landlord’ s view” of the tenants needs its intentions are admirable.

    In the end we may find that all that was actually needed was a hug and a hammer.

  • tiffany

    to Rodger: You’re probably an architect yourself taking life too serious.
    So people who have gone through a huracane should not have fun and playfulness anymore, but be serious ever after. Get a break. These people NEED playfulness after what happened to them.

  • fling

    Hurricanes are fun fun fun! Loosen up Rodger, you stick in the mud spoilysport!

  • Katrina

    i think i blew out some peoples brains!

  • Ken

    tiffany, you are most certainly not an architect!

  • gelb

    I believe that MVRDV’s design approach is a reflection of the growing trend with contemporary Dutch designers today, a response to Individualism -a principle which has been stressed out by Bart Lootsma on his book “SUPERDUTCH”. Housing projects doesn’t have to look monotonous. MVRDV’s WoZoCo Apartments for instance is an elegant deviation to the conventional monotony of doing housing projects. And the apartments were made for elderly people!
    I would understand that some people prefer to see their houses in New Orleans with a very strong sense of connection to the place which we all should respect. We have different views though.

  • yulisri


    you do job not just to keep people save,
    but also make them care with their environment,

    and you do that with architecture style,
    nice job Mr. pitt

  • Thumb

    I just hope they let the families choose which design they like the best, and let them customise the colours — as you would with your own house normally. This project has a dangerous capacity to end up with a gated community feel.

  • Mark

    To contribute to the argument surrounding MVRDV, and all the projects, I think we should take into consideration what is exactly the context of the project? In one regard, the local built environment has been ravaged and mostly destroyed, so relating to what already “exists” could be considered irrelevant. On the other hand, there is history to that specific location and I believe firmly in designing for specific location, since the act of building there implies importance to that spot. Without being able to fully resolve my initial question of the context, I would forge ahead to ask, what is the environment/surrounding/context we desire to create? B. Pitt claims “ecologically responsible, safe, affordable and have a high quality of design” . If it is the case that MVRDV is meeting this criteria, and there is individual interest of one owning this house, my assumption is that the end-users have some if not large amounts of choice in the end result, then the project is successful. Additionally, because of its curious, if not strongly argued nature, has it not contributed to the architecture as a whole? All in all, I would not mind living there after studying the section, and I could imagine that the eclectic and eccentric city of New Orleans may just want to continue is that fashion.

  • indeed… there are missing projects which focus on the community…. moderne houseing projects in such an environment needs to integrate the social factor… why not try to create housing forms which helps people to profit from the community… why no invest time in these aspects instead of making superb roof forms which are completely worthless in an economic sense… spatial quality is important.. but it should be the result not the starting point…

  • Brooklyn


    I’m sure the architects know of the demographic they’re building for. The furniture is only used to articulate the program and scale in the drawings. As for it being modern, it is only because it is whats provided in their archives of 3D furniture. I doubt they would spend time modeling new furniture that is of appropriate price.

    As for the MVRDV proposal,

    Please find a better criteria of judgment if you are to take such a negative stance.

  • The comments on this blog are a perfect example of what is right and wrong in philanthropy today.

    There are a lot of “experts” who either know more than the architects or rate political correctness higher than usability.

    At the same time, there are people who are willing to give of their time and energy to solve big problems and ask the hard questions, critics be damned.

    An interesting thing is that when articles like this are written, the subjects often lurk and see what people are thinking. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions from people that are talented enough to merit Mr. Pitt’s attention. Who knows, maybe more people will learn that they can be snarky and ask smart questions (and get thoughtful, insightful answers), all at the same time.

  • I am fascinated by the lack of understanding of the MVRDV’s aim which is to fit the people we presently have on earth onto the earth. The dominant culture continues, like a runaway train, to project their own historical viewpoints onto both the present and future. The obvious fact that this will not work is of no consequence in a spitting match, such as these folks spend their lives in. On the other hand, the notion that we would require at least four earths to actually accomplish even a fraction of this vision of life (all of earth’s people living as American’s have become used to) and that if we were able to start with virginia planets, not ones which have already been savagely “mined?”
    In fact, the only solutions which have a chance of being useful are those which provoke this sort of reaction.

  • fernando torres

    Thank God you’ve now got david adjaye and we haven’t!
    Maybe you printed the wrong picture for his solution ?
    It’s a toss-up whether the roof will blow off first, or whether the entire building will be ripped from its foundations as the Architects have conveniently provided a windcatcher for Katrina Mk2.
    Are we really expected to believe that Adjaye has provided a solution to New Orleans’ housing problems post Katrina ?
    Or is it just another ego trip ?

  • At my first look, MVRDV's design doesn't make sense, when built for victims of Katrina. But after taking a deep breath, it's the one in millions. With no doubt, their design must be the best in those.
    First thing is the "shotgun house", traditional housing of this place.
    Second thing is the structure, I think this is the most important, better than "floating house" or "house on piles(ramp)"
    Third thing is the boat-like shape when flood come. Why MVRDV don't show the computational fluid dynamic calculation for this model?
    Fourth thing is the simple.
    Fifth thing is memory, connection to the place.

    Last words, I think that this concept could be push further than this.