Twelve years after construction began, the “Make It Right” neighborhood in New Orleans continues to make headlines and generate commentary. The most recent contribution was news that a second home designed by a celebrated architect had to be demolished.
This time, the victim was a home designed by celebrated architect David Adjaye. Last year, a flat-roofed building described as “a space-age shotgun house” was torn down. And throughout the past few years, complaints about inferior building products have rivaled questions about whether it makes sense to hire starchitects to create homes whose designs run contrary to local tastes as well as against climate-related building practices.
Born after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina destroyed parts of New Orleans’ 9th Ward, “Make It Right” was intended to showcase great design and sustainable building materials. Spearheaded by actor Brad Pitt, “Make It Right” recruited architects like Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, Shigeru Bank, and Adjaye. The neighborhood became a tourist attraction as more than 110 homes went up at a cost of roughly $26 million.
But it didn’t take long after people moved in that homeowners began alleging construction and design defects. According to NOLA.com, in 2014 “'Make It Right’ was forced to spend an average of $12,000 on each of 39 homes to replace environmentally friendly weatherproof lumber called TimberSIL that was meant to hold up for decades but began deteriorating more swiftly. ‘Make It Right’ sued the lumber company for $500,000, though it's unclear if TimberSIL was made to pay.” Others questioned the idea of specifying flat roofs in rainy, humid New Orleans.
ArchDaily commentator Duo Dickinson viewed the latest demolition from a different perspective. “Beyond rot and toxicities, the failures of ‘Make It Right’ were baked in the cake of its creation,” Dickinson wrote Oct. 31. Most Americans want their homes built according to traditional designs, especially after they’ve suffered through a disaster and want a home that reminds them of past times, Dickinson argued, declaring: “Homes that are not traditional, from our memory, often threaten some of us.”
Dickinson also said that some of the “Make It Right” homes had to be demolished because “they ignored the physical context of the environment.” That happens all over, he said, but he argued that what makes the “Make It Right” … Many (many) homes, everywhere, have that fate, designed or undesigned, in any location."
Then he added: “But ‘style’ is what has sentenced ‘Make It Right’ to the judgment of failure beyond the obvious inadequacies of those that have failed. And that is a sad reality.”