Devastation at Rockaway Beach in New York following Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast in October 2012.
Noah Kalina Devastation at Rockaway Beach in New York following Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast in October 2012.

In the past couple of years, tragic storms have ripped through New Orleans; Joplin, Mo.; and New York City; to name just a few. In Joplin, more than 7,600 homes were destroyed by the second deadliest tornado in U.S. history. Even as design efforts to build better post-disaster housing and storm bunkers are under way, many people are asking why we aren’t developing more sustainable housing in the first place.

Natural disasters offer, if nothing else, a chance to rebuild stronger. And with the help of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Make It Right, the St. Bernard Project, and Architecture for Humanity, rebuilding pragmatically may be a bit easier this time around. In an effort to design resiliency into neighborhoods, these partner organizations are offering cash prizes to the best design for a single-family home specific to each of those cities (Joplin, New Orleans, and New York). The idea was first announced Thursday at the Clinton Global Initiative America, an annual event that focuses on promoting economic recovery in the U.S. 

“This competition is not about replacing what was lost, but building back something that is better,” said AIA President Mickey Jacob, FAIA, in a statement. “Architects are uniquely qualified for this task.”

In order to be in the running for one of the $10,000 cash prizes, entries must have had input from a licensed architect. In addition to prize money, any entry that meets the competition requirements will be entered into a portfolio of house designs to be used later as a reference for sustainable and resilient design. 

Designing Recovery will add to the ongoing projects already set in motion by these organizations, including the Frank Gehry–designed Make It Right house in New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward and the St. Bernard Project’s efforts to link out-of-work veterans with jobs in hard-hit areas such as Rockaway, N.Y. 

“Every city can learn from the successes and failures of these three cities and their response to disaster,” Eric Cesal, director of reconstruction and resiliency at Architecture for Humanity said in the release. “Designers and architects have a responsibility to do more—and to do better.”