Duplex by Frank Gehry for Make it Right



Frank Gehry is one of 14 architects to have designed duplexes for Make it Right, the charity founded by actor Brad Pitt to develop new housing typologies for a hurricane-devastated district of New Orleans.


The new designs, unveiled yesterday, are for multi-family dwellings and follow the range of single-family homes unveiled in January last year.


Local and international architects have designed housing for the project, with Elemental, Pugh + Scarpa, MVRDV and GRAFT among those whose designers were unveiled yesterday.


See our earlier story for more information about Make it Right. Here's some info about the new designs followed by a statement about Gehry's project:


Make It Right Architects Break New Green Ground with Duplex Designs

Families from the Lower 9th Ward can now choose to build a duplex in the Make It Right neighborhood. Until now, only single family homes were available and being built on the site devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Fourteen acclaimed local, national and international architects volunteered their time, met with the community and potential homeowners and applied their experience and creativity to come up with high quality designs that push the envelope.

The Designs

While each of the 14 duplex designs is unique, the architects tackled some common problems and arrived at innovative solutions that could change the way multi-family homes are built:

Flexibility – A number of the designs feature interchangeable floor plans that allow the families to change the size and configuration of the two homes as their family size, needs or economic situation changes.

Integration with the Street – Increasing the elevation of the homes made them safer from flooding, but interrupted the connectedness between the porch and life on the street –a relationship valued by the Lower 9th Ward community. To solve this problem, several architects created midpoint landings or stoops in the stairways where the family could gather.

Landscaping as a design and energy element – Several architects incorporated landscaping into their design of these solar-powered, highly energy efficient homes to maximize exposure to sun and shade and cut heating and cooling costs. And because outdoor living is such a core part of life in the Lower 9th Ward, many of the designs include courtyards, interior gardens, and social use of the area under the elevated house.

Affordability — To cut the cost, but not the quality of these duplexes, several of the architects, stacked the houses one on top of the other to reduce the “footprint” of the home and simplify construction.

Duplex Designs
Genhry Partners, LLP / Los Angeles, CA

About the Architect

Our design for the MIR Two-family home began with the initial community feedback meeting and a study of the local typologies and proposed program. Of the components of local vernacular, the majority of the community expressed a desire for quality outdoor space, especially the garden.

Starting with this initial desire, two story solutions were explored to reduce the overall footprint of the built structure, which would maximize available garden area, and potentially reduce foundation costs. Several basic diagrams for program organization were studied falling into two basic categories – side by side and front to back. The front to back organization allowed for better flow of the interior spaces, and a better proportioned single garden for each house. The front to back organization maximizes privacy for each house, as the area/length of common wall is reduced.

The two-story front to back diagram led to additional outdoor amenities that could be provided, including porches, canopies, a second floor terrace, and a roof top shoo-fly for each house. The finish floor of the first level was raised to 9’ above grade to allow the area below the first floor to be useable for parking and storage areas for each house. The use of a central stairway to the second floor creates a natural solar chimney, increasing passive ventilation efficiency for each house. Rooftop solar panels, rain water collection from the terraces, sun shading, cross ventilation, and geothermal cooling are additional sustainable strategies that have been incorporated into the design.

Each house maintains an entry on the street frontage on opposite sides of the lot. The front house is entered through the front garden with a stair case conveniently located adjacent to the parking. A partially covered staircase leads to the front porch, which overlooks the garden. One enters the house into the central great room, using an open plan for living, dining, and kitchen to maximize efficiency of floor area. The living area has a bay window to the front porch. The kitchen has a central island, providing separation of the kitchen area without a wall. A short corridor off of the living room leads to the first floor bedroom and bathroom, laundry area, and coat closet. The first floor bedroom has a private canopied porch, and a corner bay window.

An open stairway leads to the second floor bedroom and bathroom. The second floor bedroom has a corner bay window. At the top landing, two opposing windows allow for cross ventilation, increasing the efficiency of the solar chimney. A door provides access to the second floor terrace, which overlooks the garden. An exterior stair stacked on top of the interior stair provides access to the roof top shoo-fly, providing great views. Solar panels are placed above the shoo-fly to double as a shading device for the rooftop terrace. The rear house is accessed via a path in the side yard to a staircase adjacent to the rear garden and to parking for the rear house. The sequence of rooms for the rear house is identical to the front house.

The plan for each house is identical, rotated 180 degrees, allowing for construction efficiency. Bathrooms on both levels are stacked, bedrooms are stacked, staircases are stacked, and the great room concept for living, dining, and kitchen have all been employed to gain construction efficiency.

The final visual appearance of the two-family home is a simple expression of the solution to the design goals and parameters.

Posted on Thursday July 2nd 2009 at 12:02 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Juampi Z

    plans… sections… something??

  • Are those rectangular windows?
    From Frank Gehry?
    Has he finally seen the light?

  • bothands

    wow Gehry goes low key, kinda background architecture, vernacular even.

  • Indi

    Nice to see Gehry’s office working on a real problem- and using a real model! Interesting that they come up with a vernacular solution. Some of the roofs concern me, assuming hurricanes are like our cyclones in Australia- they could easily be ripped off by high winds unless they are more substantial than they look from the model. Concrete or timber frame construction?

  • it looks too utilitarian for me…

    they could’ve made it just a little bit preetier!

    right now it looks a bit depressing in a robot look-a-likey kind of way… :p

    but, nice job anyway of covering all the design goals in a compact building…plans and sections please?

  • One

    This is a great classic Gehry from the 80th! I love it. Thanx Frank for willing to do this once more.

  • Rocco

    Finally a Make It Right house that suites New Orleans and its residents, rather than another ridiculous residential experiment better suited for Japan or the Netherlands.

  • freedom

    this is shocking! frank gehry has changed!

  • zee

    Nice to see Gehry and a sane design come together for once.

  • tanya telford – T

    ive never been to New Orleans, but I have seen enough photos to think that these houses would fit in well in terms of aesthetics, there seems to be a number of sympathetic elements in terms of style & im guessing life style. I love the open spaces & terraces. This looks like a project of a very talented architect working with and building for specific communities & needs,

  • abe

    Wait a moment. Is this architecture?

  • onvn

    Well, this project is meant to be utilitarian isn’t it? It is intended for mid-to-low economics so no embellishing forms are appropriate.. but you can see the ‘Frank Gehry-ness’ in it.. It’s almost the tamed down version of his atypical vernacular forms (i.e. his own house, the dancing house).. Though this is understandable, keeping in mind the purpose of the building..

  • fvale

    Pietter Lansens, do you even know his work ? rectangular windows appear in many of his buildings..

  • March77

    Mr. Pitt and Make it Right are the real thing. Mr. Pitt and his org are here for the haul, incubating new paradigms for swamp urbanism — some more successfully than others. BUT, This is intellectually lazy- In my city, for my peeps, it’s not enough to drop the FG word. If FG can’t do any better than Venice Beach ’76, then give us the chain-link too. NOLA is far more nuanced and culturally vivid than this would begin to suggest. (sorry tanya, good ? abe)

    Frank, it’s about the people and their stories; its not about you.

  • Salvadore

    come on ppl, this is not a museum! what is wrong with u?? rectangular windows..!?!??! he is always using rectangular windows. i think it is a very nice project. and its a model its not the real thing, u don’t see the details right and the point is that its not about the details, its about the space in the entire ensemble come on… its not that frank ghery didn’t use things similar to this in other projects. i wonder when will the sheeps start appreciating things. anyway nice house!

  • t

    March77 – but isn’t also the inhabitants of a building that add to it? from this model it looks like the persons that will live there can do that, for me this does not look like a building which would inhibt the people living it, for me it looks encourageing of vibrancy, call me nieave? (can’t seem to spell the word)but i always think of Jazz when I think of New Orleans, a reallly good mix of song and dance, I can imagine people sitting on the terrace playing music etc

  • Joseph Ahmed

    How interesting the Duplex by Frank Gehry.

  • Wyman Brent

    I would love to see an architect of Mister Gehry’s stature help in the creation of a new Jewish library here in Vilnius, Lithuania. It truly would become the best and brightest Jewish library in Europe.

  • Edwin Dekker

    problem with gehry seems to be that when he doesn’t have sky-high budgets… it gets boring. but that’s ok, the same is true for most of his other buildings when you look a bit deeper than the shiny facade…

  • 0hzone

    Nice to see frank returning to the forms of some of his earlier work.

    now if he could just sex it up a little.

  • Isdekker Forreal

    Shapes hints faints quotes ducks
    nice work and to hell with those that don’t get it

  • Vico

    Nobody knows how to Make It Wrong like old Frankie. This chunk of junk looks like a pastel-toned Noah’s Ark awaiting the next flood.

    Toned down for the master of scuptural quiffery, but not quite ostentatious enough for New Orleans, unless this is to be CP3’s new residence. I expect it to stand out like the Banks Family’s Bel Air residence.

  • wartian

    i think is brad pitt who design this duplex!

  • paul

    in the first picture, left side of the house – there is a porch with a model of a person standing under the roof. In that area – two down sloping roof lines come together right at the porch. I wonder how Frank is dealing with the rain water runoff there. Otherwise, a lot of rain is going to be funneled right onto the porch and/or down to the parking space below. Does ne1 else feel that is a weird roof?

    I also agree with Indi about concerns about the roofs during hurricanes / high winds.

  • Isdekker Forreal

    Team Gehry should have provided the photo for the other side- That simple flip of the colors would show rather than tell. The fact that this looks more like a house than most of the others I’ve seen should mean something. The ad hoc manner does seem relevant even if it supports a myth (that this piecemeal construction is cheaper- thus isn’t a cheap design- (ie a box) in spite of the stacked efficiencies, but maybe it shouldn’t be?)
    And on that confluence that solution’s called a gutter, no?

  • Paul, Yorkshire

    Is it a timber construction?
    What happens when the next Hurricane Katrina comes? needs to be made of something more sturdy.
    Building with earth seems more appropriate, if they have got one eye on the budget.

  • GTI

    Watch the roofs fly off during the next hurricane. I thought it was by Michael Graves but it must be by Brad Pitt.

  • Aaron Turner

    This is a great design. Its got soul. I think the designer must be African-American. It is also one of the few designs not to show thousands of dollars of designer italian furniture and mock “modern art” in the interiors. Not that African-Americans don’t appreciate fine art and design, but be honest before you convey how someone should live in your euro-centric model. If of course your going to render it with black people of the LOWER 9th ward.

  • ati

    Nice to see Gehry and a sane design come together for once

  • alecco

    Enough with the sarcastic remarks about Gehry and how shocking this design is. Most Clients WANT what Gehry designs. The same is true in this case. He is solving a problem.

    By the way, Gehry's real legacy will be how he changed the way projects are delivered. The software he has developed has revolutionized the way architects, contractors and owners keep track of change orders. Gehry doesnt pretend his buildings are cheap, but costs dont run away unlike other architects.