Float House by Morphosis for Make it Right


American architects Morphosis have completed a floating house for Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans, in collaboration with graduates of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The house was designed to be affordable and able to withstand flooding, floating as water levels rise.

It is built on a prefabricated chassis, made of polystyrene foam coated in glass fibre-reinforced concrete.

This acts as a raft and allows the house to rise up to 3.7 metres, secured in place by posts.

Residents are not meant to remain inside the house during flooding but the architects hope the design would allow them to move back in quickly after the storm.

The Make it Right project aims to build 150 affordable, sustainable and and storm-resistant houses for families who lost their homes due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. See our previous story for more information.

More Make it Right houses on Dezeen:

Hot Links by Atelier Hitoshi Abe
Duplex by Pugh + Scarpa
Duplex by Frank Gehry

Photographs are by Iwan Baan.

Here' some more information from Morphosis:


New Orleans based Morphosis Architects' Professor Thom Mayne along with UCLA graduates have completed the first permitted floating house in the United States.

As part of Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, the sustainable Float House was designed to be affordable and flood safe in response to the rising water levels. The concept of this project developed from a study of: records, social and cultural history and the ecology of the surrounding area.

Under the guidance of Thom Mayne, Morphosis and the students worked together to develop the FLOAT House. Whilst giving the students a chance to be involved in a project that had impact on the world, it also meant that they could be a part of a real life project that socially affected the area in which the houses would be in.

Morphosis FLOAT House Completed for Make It Right Foundation Thom Mayne, with his firm Morphosis Architects, and UCLA graduate students complete first permitted floating home in the United States.

New Orleans – Morphosis Architects, under the direction of renowned architect and UCLA distinguished Professor Thom Mayne, has completed the first floating house permitted in the United States for Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans.The FLOAT House is a new model for flood-safe, affordable and sustainable housing that is designed to float securely with rising water levels.

Mayne led a team from Morphosis Architects and graduate students from UCLA Architecture and Urban Design in this innovative housing project to help with the rebuilding of the Lower Ninth Ward post-Hurricane Katrina. The concept emerged from a study of the flooding record, social and cultural history of the city, and the ecology of the Mississippi Delta. Morphosis and UCLA’s collaboration on the research, development, design, and construction of the FLOAT House is exemplary of their shared goals to engage students in real-world design for social impact.

In the event of flooding, the base of the house – reconceived as a chassis -- acts as a raft, allowing the house to rise vertically on guide posts, securely floating up to twelve feet as water levels rise. While not designed for occupants to remain in the home during a hurricane, this innovative structure aims to minimize catastrophic damage and preserve the homeowner’s investment in their property. This approach also allows for the early return of occupants in the aftermath of a hurricane or flood.

“When Brad Pitt launched Make It Right, he promised the residents of the Lower 9th Ward that he would help them build back stronger, safer and better able to survive the next storm or flood. The FLOAT House is helping us deliver on that promise. For the first time, this house brings technology to Americans that was created to help save homes and speed recovery from flooding. It’s an approach and design that could and should be replicated all over the world now threatened with increased flooding caused by climate change,” says Tom Darden, Executive Director of the Make It Right Foundation.

Designed in response to Ninth Ward residents’ specific needs, the FLOAT House serves as a scalable prototype that can be mass-produced and adapted to the needs of communities world-wide facing similar challenges. On track for a LEED Platinum Rating, the state-of-the-art home uses high-performance systems, energy efficient appliances, and prefabrication methods to produce an affordable, sustainable house that generates its own power, minimizes resource consumption, and collects its own water.

Like the traditional New Orleans “shotgun” house, the FLOAT House sits on a raised four-foot base, preserving the community’s vital front porch culture and facilitating accessibility for elderly and disabled residents. This high-performance “chassis” is a prefabricated module, made from polystyrene foam coated in glass fiber reinforced concrete, which hosts all of the essential equipment to supply power, water and fresh air. The chassis is engineered to support a range of home configurations.

Of his involvement with the project, Thom Mayne says, “The immense possibilities of the Make It Right initiative became immediately apparent to us: how to re-occupy the Lower 9th Ward given its precarious ecological condition? The reality of rising water levels presents a serious threat for coastal cities around the world. These environmental implications require radical solutions. In response, we developed a highly performative, 1,000 square foot house that is technically innovative in terms of its safety factor – its ability to float – as well as its sustainability, mass production and method of assembly.”

While the Morphosis floating house is the first to be permitted in the United States, the technology was developed and is in use in the Netherlands where architects and developers are working to address an increased demand for housing in the face of rising sea levels associated with climate change.

The chassis was designed and built by Morphosis Architects and UCLA graduate students on the UCLA campus. In July 2009 the chassis was transported to New Orleans where prefabricated modules designed by the group were assembled on-site. Construction services were donated by general contractor Clark Construction Group, Inc.

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design chair, Hitoshi Abe, states “Our students were thrilled to have the opportunity that this unique project afforded to apply their research and design to a real world problem - building affordable, sustainable housing for communities afflicted by flooding. Our success demonstrates that the value of applied research can change the working methodologies of students and faculty who strive to develop and evaluate solutions with a positive impact on their context. The close collaboration between student, faculty and outside experts generates a unique studio environment characterized by outstanding creativity and energy.”

Mayne’s Morphosis was among thirteen local, national and international architects selected to participate in the first stage of the Make It Right project . The architecture firms were called upon to reimagine traditional New Orleans housing types, such as the “shotgun” house, to provide affordable, sustainable, and high design quality housing. The FLOAT House will support Make It Right's mission to catalyze redevelopment of the Lower Ninth Ward by providing a displaced family with a flood-safe home, while preserving the community’s culture.

About Make It Right

Make It Right was launched by actor Brad Pitt in December, 2007 to help residents of the Lower 9th Ward rebuild their lives and community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The initial goal of the Foundation is to build at least 150 affordable, green and storm-resistant homes for families who lived in the Lower 9th Ward when the hurricane hit. All of the Make It Right homes have been certified LEED platinum, the highest designation for energy efficiency and sustainability awarded by the US Green Building Council. This makes the Make It Right project the “largest, greenest neighborhood of single family homes” in America according to the USGBC. Make It Right will have 50 homes by December, 2009 and 150 homes by December, 2010.

About Morphosis

Morphosis is a collective practice committed to rigorous design and research that yields innovative buildings and urban environments. With projects worldwide, the firm’s work encompasses a wide range of project types and scales including residential, institutional, cultural and civic buildings as well as large urban planning projects. Morphosis has received 25 Progressive Architecture awards, over 90 American Institute of Architects (AIA) awards and numerous other honors. In collaboration with academic institutions worldwide, the studio has conducted extensive research on contemporary urban issues and has produced a series of publications including LA Now, Volumes One through Four. Morphosis has also been the subject of o over 20 monographs, including a 2003 monograph from Phaidon, and 5 volumes published by Rizzoli International that span the complete works of the firm.

About UCLA Architecture and Urban Design

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design in the School of the Arts and Architecture is a leading player on the international stage of contemporary architecture. Working with world-class faculty from established Pritzker Prize winners to the upstarts of tomorrow, our students integrate the most creative approaches to design, advanced developments in technology, and rigorous approaches to architectural thought available today. Using Los Angeles, one of the world¹s greatest 21st century cities as model, laboratory and provocation, innovative programs give students the means and the vision to enter contemporary design culture as architects, urbanist thinkers and critics.

About Clark Construction

Since its founding in 1906, Clark Construction Group has developed a reputation as one of the nation’s most experienced and respected general contractors. With annual revenue in excess of $4 billion, Clark is consistently ranked among the country’s largest construction companies. Regional offices are strategically located to serve the diverse needs of public and private clients throughout the United States with the headquarters in Bethesda, MD. Community service is an integral part of Clark’s culture. Through monetary gifts, inkind donations, volunteer support, and probono work, Clark gives back to the communities in which it lives and works. Clark’s efforts with relief for Hurricane Katrina extend back to 2005, when Clark helped repair the medical clinic and library in Bayou La Batre, LA.

The FLOAT HOUSE is a Design-Build project developed by Morphosis Architects in association with the UCLA Architecture and Urban Department for the Make It Right Foundation.

This project was made possible through the generous donations of: Morphosis Architects, Clark Construction Group, Inc., UCLA Architecture and Urban Design, and UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. Additional support was provided by: Thornton Tomasseti, Inc., IBE Consulting Engineers, Inc., Strata International Group, Inc., SwissPearl, DEMODE by Valcucine, Pan Pacific Plumbing, and Epo Solar.

Posted on Tuesday October 20th 2009 at 12:34 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • when will morphosis get over deconstructionism? if they wait a little more it will actually be back in style…

  • sluggo

    An intriguing concept. My one concern is the power of the storms. During hurricanes in Florida the moored boats in marinas are tossed around by wind and often destroyed. Is there a way to minimize this?
    Kudos for this building/boat.

  • Michael

    Another lovely display case for the viewing and exploitation of Katrina victims.

    We architects don’t solve problems, we only respond and create a process involving them.

    PROBLEM: Faulty levees from 30 years of neglect.

    SOLUTION: Strand families dangerously in floating raft houses.

  • From these pictures, you’d think the Lower Ninth Ward was some kind of architectural-suburban-fantasia. Too bad.

  • gab xiao

    sooo beautiful and jolly! this is a good remainder ARCHITECTURE can thrive on limited budget but great ideas

  • aeolus

    While the designs are interesting the roofs won’t survive hurricane force winds and what are the odds of another Katrina? Too much design I think. Better a house that will survive both wind and flood and be easily re-inhabited.

  • The work being created for New Orleans is amazing. From the designers to the contractors, and even the celebrities, we can see the essence of humanity. What is the price tag for one of these homes? Would be great to have in South Florida.

  • JKJ

    finally a well thought out house for new orleans…

  • james

    Nice drawings, ugly house. It looks like they pieced the house together with scraps.
    The inside seems odd and feels cheap.

  • james

    also plans would help.

  • Juampi Z

    I agree with gab xiao! EXCELLENT

  • Alberto Sunderland

    I have to agree with aeolus and michael. Whilst the “Make it Right” foundation is attempting to help the disadvantaged people of New Orleans, this house only seems to have efficiently and successfully resolved as small part of the problem – cost and fabrication. . . .

    Surely the roof shape, eaves and overhanging “bits and pieces” will just be ripped off by the winds of a category 4 storm, which in my understanding of the problem, is exactly what the house is supposed to be designed to withstand. I assume there must be a box gutter at the bottom of the “V” shaped roof. Why on earth would you do that when a Cat 4 storm usually brings with it large volumes of water . . . . .

    Good intentions, but in my humble opinion, not a good final solution . . . .

  • John

    Those toilets look like they’re 20 years old. That alone makes it hard to respect the integrity of the design.

  • tricky p

    this might be the most disgusting piece of architecture i have ever seen. the whole development subjects a traditionally low income neighborhood with the poor taste of a celebrity want-a-be architect. give me a break. and if that wasn’t bad enough, it looks as if the chosen starchitects have unleased their interns on these houses.

  • sullka

    – 5/5 for interior design (a little tiny on the living spaces, but it does have 2 full baths for 2 rooms only, which is a luxury in US housing)

    -5/5 for technological solutinos/responses to the flooding problem.

    -1/5 for exterior, the house is simple horrendous.

    -1/5 for “cultural identity”, that’s not a “livable porch”, that’s just a huge ugly railing on a small deck, even the prototype next door (ugly as well) has a real porch.

    Overall, regarding of the aesthetical solutions form most of the projects, this is a great inniciative, a sorth of ORDOS for the masses, I applaud everyone involved with it.

  • bodkin

    ‘made from bits of leftover stuff’ is my least favourite style of architecture and I also agree that it looks like storm force winds would make short work of this house before it ever got the chance to float. A for effort but an F for content.

  • onvn

    The language seem to not talk about ‘economy’.. when i think of economy i think of simplicity, as well as honesty, in material palette, no ornamentation, the ornamentation is the material’s own attributes, no fancy colour treatments.. and all this done elegantly.. This project, IMHO, does none of these.. It strikes me as being confused; deconstructed at places but ornamented unnecessarily in others.. I appreciate their attempt to blend in with the area’s vernaculars but again, quite conflicting in some of their design decisions..

    maybe these guys need to have a look at some Australian architecture that does this kind of projects BEAUTIFULLY..

  • erj

    Maybe Brad Pitt, the City of New Orleans et. al. should have listened to Ila Berman & Filippe Correa when they rigorously mapped and made it clear that building below the flood line let a lone the tide line is ludicrous. Man cannot control nature.

  • …Or maybe those of you who say “it seems like it will just be blow away in the next storm” don’t really know what you’re talking about. Florida revised its building codes after Hurricane Andrew and significantly reduced the amount of storm damage sustained by conventional construction. Overhangs on roofs don’t necessarily mean they will be susceptible to excessive uplift from high winds.

    Also, Katrina was a 100 year storm. Granted 100 year storms are increasing in their frequency, why should surviving a 100 year storm be the ONLY design factor? Maybe concerns that the house faces EVERY day (such as a need to shade its windows from the harsh Southern sun) trump those which may never even affect the house…

  • scarpasez

    …yeah folks, the real problem in New Orleans is the storm surge, not the wind damage. And sure, it would be nice for the levees not to break, but archies ain’t engineers, nor do they make policy. People are going to live there. They might as well have a house that can take the highest risk source of damage.

    To those who don’t like the look, or find it passe, that’s your taste. Whatever du jour is your fancy, well go ahead and enjoy your poncy affectations. The minimalist castle is your own emptiness. I think it’s funky, certainly more interesting than the shotgun claptrap you’d find there otherwise. And do you think those walls are going to stay white? That house is a canvas, and it’s asking for the personality of its inhabitants to take it on. It’s going to be cluttered, messy, and full of life. I find its rough and ready construction and dynamic form totally appropriate and cheerful. Bravo to all involved!

  • woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow

  • thomaschan

    i have no comment in this work.. they comment it already.. what a taste! it is so nice.. the mystery behind the doors are surprising…

  • It’s time for an update on this project. What is the condition of all that OSB they managed to stick into the project?