GRAFT - The Make It Right Project
Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2006. It left one of the most culturally diverse cities in the United States in desperate need of help.
When actor Brad Pitt visited the Lower 9th Ward, one of New Orleans’s worst-hit neighborhoods, for the first time after the storm he was shocked by what he saw: the remnants of people’s lives strewn across the streets and an entire community torn apart and turned upside down.
Pitt was even more disturbed by the lack of a clear plan to address the situation. Many were quietly saying there was no chance the Lower 9th Ward would ever be re-built.
In a series of community meetings, residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt about the challenges their community faced, both before and after the storm. The rising cost of energy placed a strain on the low-income households of the neighborhood and residents expressed concern about worsening environmental conditions.
Their concerns have been validated by many scientists, who have concluded that climate change is increasing the frequency and strength of hurricanes, resulting in the erosion of wetlands and barrier islands that once protected the coast. The residents of the Lower 9th Ward told Pitt that while their terrible crisis had exposed their vulnerability, Katrina had also created an opportunity: to build something better than what had existed before.
Inspired by the courage and hope of the residents he met, Pitt resolved to do whatever he could to help them rebuild. Just as importantly, he wanted to help recreate and nurture the unique culture and spirit of the Lower 9th Ward, which symbolizes the soul of New Orleans. He understood instinctively that a New Orleans rebuilt without the Lower 9th Ward would never be whole.
Pitt worked with local community leaders as well as experts from around the world to develop viable ideas for the Lower 9th Ward and called his project Make It Right. One out of several architectural firms and foundations that were advising Pitt on this project was a young architectural firm from Germany, called GRAFT. The practice of Lars Krueckberg, Wolfram Putz and Thomas Willemeit was founded in Berlin and Los Angeles in 1998.
As a part of the Make It Right core team, GRAFT came up with “green” solutions that were fitted around the project’s mission: to be a catalyst for redevelopment of the Lower 9th Ward, by building a neighborhood comprised of sustainable, safe and healthy homes that are inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking, with an emphasis on a high quality of design, while preserving the spirit of the community’s culture. The goal is to accomplish this quickly, so that the first residents can begin returning to their homes as soon as possible.
Cradle to Cradle thinking was developed by William McDonough and German chemist Prof. Michael Braungart, inspired by natural systems. In the natural world, the sun continually generates new growth and feeds living systems. One organism’s waste nourishes another – waste equals food. Everything we create can contribute positively to society, the economy, and the environment in the construction of the Make It Right houses. Thus, houses will be supplied with solar power via panels attached to every roof. This erases high energy bills for low income households and provides less strain on the energy grid. Energy will be saved by using energy efficient construction be it high insulation values, operable windows and efficient appliances.
As part of the international Make It Right team, GRAFT was able to develop an American neighbourhood desperately in need of sustainable thinking and contributed tremendously to the German-American friendship: