The Lower 9th Ward represents a rather new phenomenon in American urbanism; physical tabula rasa paired with a metaphysical fabric of emotion, history, and tragedy that is no less significant than the physical emptiness. That emptiness has boldly been broken by the Make It Right foundation. Regardless of one’s opinion of their planning or design practices, the context that MIR has created in the 9th Ward has its own richness that is redefining the neighborhood’s physical presence while ensuring the continuity of the metaphysical through resident outreach. It is this new context that should now be respected and preserved. Unwittingly, MIR has sparked and nurtured the NOLA movement, defined by contemporary material, formal, and tectonic gestures with a thoughtful respect for regional typologies.
The hallmarks of this innovative residential design model are large amounts of shaded outdoor living space, high volume spaces for passive cooling, massing that minimizes solar heat gain, and programmatic organization drawn from historical Crescent City housing types.
One of the weaknesses of Passive House standards, and indeed most environmental design models that emphasize envelope tightness, is the difficulty of expansion. Historically, New Orleans homes grow with their occupying families. Simply put, a house that cannot be affordably expanded is culturally insensitive and outside of the NOLA spirit. This proposal allows for growth within the envelope, minimizing the upfront investment for a young family and maximizing the value for that same family as they gain members. This approach encourages less transiency and more attachment to place and community, something we New Orleanians value tremendously.