The third and final day of Reinvention 2010 began with a panel of New Orleanians discussing the city’s rebuilding efforts. Byron Mouton, AIA, noted that “since the storm, there’s been more willingness to try things in a different way.” He showed two residences by his firm, Bild Design, as well as projects by the student design/build program he directs, Tulane URBANbuild. A main local concern, he said, is figuring out “how we move away from the earth while maintaining some connection with the neighborhood.”
Wayne Troyer, AIA, presented several projects that aim to improve local communities and work within the city’s built context. These included a 3-acre mixed-use project, an adaptive reuse of an old mill building, and the rebuilding of a fraternity house in the Uptown neighborhood. A net-zero, mixed-use project that provides job training and a small housing component will be ready for the American Institute of Architects’ national convention in spring 2011. Architect and developer Marcel Wisznia, AIA, showed a series of the multifamily, mixed-use projects he’s been able to put together by navigating the byzantine systems of federal and state tax credits for historic preservation and alternative energy. “The common thread here is pre-Katrina and post-Katrina, and that’s really how we live our lives,” he told the audience.
Steve Dumez, FAIA, of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, said his firm was beginning to “rethink a way in which we can develop a more significant connection back to the water … more like the Dutch model of connectivity to the water’s edge.” He pointed out that “Katrina, for us, has been transformative. Katrina was not a natural disaster. It really was a failure of imagination and a failure of design, and it’s our responsibility as locals to do everything we can to get it right this time.”
“One of our major goals is to understand the concept of innovation and replication,” said Tim Duggan, a landscape architect with Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation. He noted the different building methods the foundation has been trying and also the green landscape techniques used throughout the Make It Right project, which so far has built 52 houses in the Ninth Ward neighborhood. Policy associate Linda Stone of Global Green presented her organization’s Holy Cross neighborhood project containing five houses, a multifamily building, and a community center.
All of the panelists except for Duggan listed building costs and affordability as their most formidable obstacle. Duggan said his organization’s biggest challenge is the “lack of basic infrastructure and lack of community services to the Ninth Ward.”