Tuesday, October 31, 2006
USA Make A Difference Day
In late September 2005, Andres Duany sent out an e-mail to the team getting ready for the Mississippi charrette. It included marching orders for the architects who would be working on permanent and temporary housing during the charrette. Most of what Duany talked about was quickly accomplished, and then some, like $400 million in funding for emergency Katrina Cottages. (None of it was done by me, so that's not bragging.)
- Mobile homes will be permanent, regardless of what you hear. They should be beautifully designed to fit in as well and as gracefully as the shotguns, double shotguns and camelbacks of the Gulf Coast. This will only be effectively done if you visit your local mobile home factories to ascertain the potential and the limits of their technique. There are many aspects that could be immediately improved at only slightly higher cost--however, there are others that cannot be crossed lest their intrinsic economy be lost. It is misunderstood technical boundaries that have ALWAYS made attempts at improving mobile homes as expensive--or more expensive--than the site-built ones. This has been the story from Paul Rudolph to last year's Xxxx fiasco. Steven Mouzon has already researched the fundamental technical parameters and he will be posting them shortly. However, these are not enough. I repeat: organize a trip to a factory or you will be wasting your time.
- Find out what the rumored FEMA permanent housing prototype is and redesign it many ways. There must be not only variety but excellence. I have not seem them but assume that they will require your attention or they they will become instant blight. As will the Habitat houses below.
- Find out about the available models and protocols of Habitat and engage them. Don't redesign the plans necessarily--as they have those figured out. However, they need to be better detailed and fitted to the climate, traditions and cultures of the Gulf Coast. There is an enormous amount of know-how available from from UDA's and Placemaker's pattern books. Call for them and use them.
- Go to the great prefab and panelization factories--Yyyy for example. As you know, their products are not usually cheaper than site-built houses; however, under the circumstances of a permanent regional labor shortages, they will not only be relatively less expensive--they will be the only available option. Yyyy houses range in look from out-of date to dopey. There is nothing about their construction technique that necessarily makes them so. . . it is their designers that fail. Also; look into the log-built industry. They are finer and in quality and with a better design potential than you would think.
Less than six months later, the first Katrina Cottage was on display at the annual Builder show hosted by the National Association of Homebuilders. A few months after that, Lowe's announced they would be sell Katrina Cottages, and Marianne Cusato's Katrina Cottage won the People's Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, while Congress authorized funding for Katrina Cottages.
Expect more news in the next few months. Another Katrina Cottage is going up in Silver Springs, Maryland (Washington Post story here and here), sponsored by USA Today. This one easily expands, and is designed as permanent affordable housing. I've been to more than one meeting where Modernist architects get absolutely apoplectic about these traditional designs, but what's their alternative? One of the great disappointments of the avant garde establishment that runs the style war against New Urbanism and traditional architecture is that they offer so little. Avant garde architects design mainly for the super-rich and luxury developers.
In New Orleans, local architects and planners saw the success of the New Urban charrette 60 miles away on the Mississippi Gulf and fought to keep the New Urbanists out of New Orleans, even when they were ready to work for free. But as I wrote here (in a Me and Bobby McGee parody) about Tulane Architecture School Dean Reed Kroloff, "Kroloff thumbed his nose at us, and gave us our big break, That drove us all the way to New Orleans."
Duany and DPZ are in New Orleans for the next 2 1/2 weeks, holding charrettes for the French Quarter, the Central Business District and Gentilly, at least partly because Kroloff publicly made such a fool of himself that his self-proclaimed enemies, the New Urbanists, got another look and became more attractive.
UPDATE: There's a new website for the Katrina Cottages.
New Door to Affordable Housing Opens
By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 29, 2006; C05
When Phyllis Johnson and her daughter, Zabrina, got a look inside their free new home yesterday, they delighted in the large windows that will let the sunlight pour in. Unlike their current home in Silver Spring, the ceilings weren't crumbling, the floors didn't sag and the eaves weren't rotting.
What the Johnsons didn't see: They had become the face of what some architects, developers and urban planners hope is the future of affordable housing born out of Hurricane Katrina's devastation.
The Johnsons received a "Katrina Cottage," a house designed to be built quickly and relatively inexpensively for New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents displaced by the 2005 storm. Designers said the same houses, made to be more attractive and of higher quality than most subsidized housing, also can be used nationwide for lower-income residents. The Johnsons' new two-bedroom, two-bath home is the first of its kind outside the hurricane zone.
After her dilapidated home on Michigan Avenue is torn down, the new house will be moved to the same tree-lined lot.
"I just really loved the windows . . . " Johnson, 59, said after seeing the inside of her new home for the first time yesterday. "When it snows, you could open the curtains, and in the summer, when the sun rises, it will fill with sunlight."
That was exactly what Steve Mouzon hoped to hear. Mouzon, who designed the Johnsons' home, said Katrina Cottage houses are designed to be a "FEMA trailer with dignity" for storm survivors who might end up in temporary housing for years. He said some Florida residents who lost homes during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 just moved out of their government trailers last fall.
He said he and other Katrina Cottage advocates also are working to combat the stigmas attached to both manufactured and affordable housing by making them more attractive. To make the Johnsons' new home appear larger than its 1,300 square feet, Mouzon included high ceilings and the big windows. He designed the front columns and porch railing to resemble those he saw on beautiful, old homes in Old Town Alexandria.
"I did a tour of the area for the things that people seemed to value most and love the longest," he said.
The Johnsons' home cost about $300,000, largely because it is a prototype. When manufactured on a large scale, it probably will cost about $150,000, organizers said. Ben Brown, a spokesman for the project, said organizers hope to have the Johnsons' home fully furnished by the time they move in, with donations from Home Depot, Restoration Hardware, Sears and other companies.
The house was built outside New Orleans and arrived in the Lyttonsville neighborhood off East West Highway and Grubb Road on Wednesday. Since then, a dozen workers from Louisiana and California worked through the night, and often in the rain, to get it ready. In place now is a 523-square-foot kitchen, family room and bathroom. After two more pieces are added, it will be 1,300 square feet, with an additional two bedrooms, a living room and a small courtyard.
The house made its debut yesterday during "Make a Difference Day," during which an estimated 3 million people do volunteer work across the country. The house was donated by Housing International Inc., a manufactured-housing company in California, and given to Johnson through a program of the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
Volunteers from USA Weekend magazine, which co-sponsored the national day of service, helped Johnson move out of her home and into a nearby apartment, where she will live until her new house is finished.
The Johnsons came to the attention of Montgomery's housing department last year, when Zabrina Johnson, 40, called for help fixing their home.
Zabrina Johnson said she was laid off from her job a year ago and has recently been doing temporary secretarial work. She said her mother is disabled because of heart problems, diabetes and complications of two minor strokes.
Phyllis Johnson said she will miss the good times she had in her old home but not its headaches. "The time comes to move on and put that behind us and start fresh," she said.
The house will be open to the public weekends in November at the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Center, 2450 Lyttonsville Rd.
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This is a great idea.
Posted by: Jack at Sep 16, 2008 3:52:34 PM