On the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in New Orleans, the Make It Right Foundation, founded by actor Brad Pitt, hosted an architectural panel discussion, "Disaster to Opportunity: The Changing Paradigm of Redevelopment." The August 29 event, held at the Contemporary Arts Center, gave architects and representatives of organizations helping to rebuild the city's Lower Ninth Ward an opportunity to share lessons learned throughout the post-disaster rebuilding process.
Panelists included Bob Berkebile, FAIA, principal of architecture firm BNIM Architects; Majora Carter, president of the Majora Carter Group, a Bronx, N.Y.-based green development consultancy; Walter Hood Jr., FASLA, professor and former chair of landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and principal of Oakland, Calif., landscape architecture firm Hood Design; and Byron Mouton, AIA, director of the Tulane School of Architecture's URBANbuild program and founder and principal of bildDESIGN. News anchor Norman Robinson of WDSU-TV, the local NBC affiliate, moderated.
According to Mouton, the venue was so packed with attendees that many who arrived late couldn't be accommodated. Panelists discussed the new paradigm of redevelopment after disasters, offering examples from post-Katrina rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and from other natural disaster-struck areas around the world. "The audience members, all local, were helped by the realization that they're not the only ones dealing with the challenges of recovery and rebuilding after disasters," Mouton says. "That was a boost for them."
Also discussed were the role of collaboration between government, practitioners, community organizations, and citizens and the challenges involved in making the shift toward a greener norm in redevelopment; green jobs; and the latest design trends in affordable housing. Many in the audience expressed concerns about preserving the authenticity and architectural legacy of New Orleans, but not in a spirit of argument or confrontation.
"The speakers allowed every person in that room to leave realizing that we can do this: we can deal with the issues and challenges of rebuilding after this disaster, and we can use our experiences and the lessons we've learned to make things better in the future," Mouton explains. "Because this is a city so consumed by its own nostalgia, it's really tough for anyone to easily accept new ideas. But I think people left [the event] realizing that we need to accept some new ideas. Otherwise, we'll drown."