BRAD PITT ANNOUNCES NEW ORLEANS DESIGN COMPETITION – by Leyla Linton
Brad Pitt called Thursday for people to submit proposals for an environmentally friendly design competition he is sponsoring to rebuild parts of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
“Our goal is to kick off the rebuilding effort. It’s certainly long overdue and I can only go from the reports that we get … that it’s behind, absolutely. People are frustrated,” Pitt said by telephone from Namibia.
“We could possibly build something that was better and took into account the historical traditions of the city and the voices of the people and turn this into some kind of good,” the actor added.
Pitt, who is currently in the southern African country with actress Angelina Jolie and their children, is teaming up with Global Green USA, a national environmental organization, on the design project.
Pitt will lead a jury made up of architects and local leaders to choose designs by six finalists who will then work with local neighborhoods on more detailed proposals for environmentally sound buildings.
The open competition will focus on the Holy Cross neighborhood in the impoverished Lower 9th Ward. Designs will be submitted in June and the finalists chosen in July.
Pitt described his reaction to watching the scenes of the devastation caused by Katrina. “Truthfully, I dare say we witnessed, to our shame, the fact that there’s a portion of our society that’s being dismissed and that needs to be rectified and I thought that was a real casualty overall from the event.”
Pitt said it was both the humanitarian and design elements of the project that interested him.
“Good architecture is not about building a pretty box and putting it on a piece of land. It’s about the needs of the people inhabiting it. It’s about the sun, wind, the temperature of the place, their well-being, their quality of life, they go hand in hand. Good architecture cannot exist truthfully without good will,” he said.
Pitt said he has a huge interest in architecture.
“I am a bit of a junkie. It’s inexplicable really. I believe we creatures are very susceptible to our surroundings. They can actually improve our mode of
life and I personally am very affected … when I walk through an intelligent building. It inspires me,” said Pitt. “To me it’s like walking through a piece of art and, coupling that now with the green movement of the smarter architecture — of the healthier buildings with great design — is a very exciting prospect to me.”
Matt Petersen, president of Global Green USA, said that Pitt had “really educated himself not just on architecture, but green design as well. We’ll probably have a vice-chair as well on the jury to help Brad. There will be a lot of experienced people on there as well as Brad.”
The impetus for the competition stems from both a desire to help rebuild the devastated city, and to ensure that at least some of the reconstruction occurs in an environmentally-aware manner that reflect a vision of New Orleans in the future.
“As the rebuilding process in New Orleans begins in earnest we want to ensure that the designs and construction embrace principles of sustainable design and green building,” Petersen said.
“What we’re doing can help provide a spark for the rebuilding of New Orleans and to do it differently. If we build the right buildings now, we’re not going to have to tear them down. They will be more disaster resistant,” he added.
Anyone can pre-register from today for the competition although final details on the jury and the brief will not be released until mid-May. The finalist presentation and jury review will take place before the first anniversary of Katrina on Aug. 29.
Global Green, the US arm of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross International, is providing technical assistance in green standards for 10,000 buildings in New Orleans. The standards include energy efficiency, improved indoor air quality, clean energy sources and healthy building materials.
Pitt declined to answer questions about the upcoming birth of his biological child with Jolie. “Absolutely not,” he laughed.
There is widespread speculation that Jolie intends to give birth in Namibia and that the couple plan to marry there.
Pitt would only say that he had a warm welcome there. “Namibia’s just a country we’re very fond of. It’s a beautiful land and hospitable people and a place that we want to be for the time being,” he said.
Almost a year after the flood waters of Katrina decimated this city, piles of garbage still line the streets, the rotting remains of houses haunt neighborhoods and afforable housing is hard to find.
Pitt: I’m telling you, man, these people need help and are not being addressed like they should be. They are not getting the adequate support or the support fast enough.
To try and change the conditions still found in New Orleans, Brad Pitt joined forces with the non-profit group Global Green to sponsor an architectural competition to design a green 12-unit apartment complex.
Matt Petersen, Global Green CEO: One of the things we asked all of the designers to do is focus on energy use.
Brad and Global Green CEO Matt Petersen showed me the six finalists culled from more than 3000 registrants from all over the world. The first design was from Chicago.
“On the River”: Brian Foster and David Brininstool of Brininstool and Lynch, Chicago, Ill.
Petersen: This one did it interesting in the use of solar power and energy efficiency growing upon a creative idea of having a solar barge. That may or may not be feasible in the end, but it showed some creativity about how they wanted to approach the energy challenge.
The jury judging the entries picked designs that promised to generate as much energy as the buildings would consume.
Pitt: Understand, this is the way of the future. We’ve got to address these issues. It’s just a matter of time and we might as well start here. It’s a great opportunity to do so, this rebuilding effort.
Curry: What convinces you that this is the wave of the future?
Pitt: Oh, because it’s inevitable. The dependency on oil, the … look at our gas prices. And the health rates. We just can’t keep consuming ourselves into extinction. We’ve got to regroup and adopt a new paradigm, a new way of thinking.
The next finalist’s design relies on newer green technology that uses the temperature of the earth to heat or cool the apartment.
“The Levee”: Drew Lang of Drew Lang Architects, New York, N.Y.
Petersen: They also draw upon a geothermal cooling and heating system, which in this area actually would work pretty well.
But many of the best green ideas are old ideas and that is what we saw in the third finalist, who uses a traditional New Orleans design called a shotgun loft to help cool the house with air flow and cross ventilation.
“NOLA ShotgunLOFT”: Fred Schwartz of Schwartz Architecture, New York, N.Y.
Petersen: Well there are a lot of natural shading and ventilation ideas that really stood out. The basic design of the shotgun loft is air circulation and cross ventaliation in the home.
The fourth finalist also uses the traditional shotgun loft design, He also designed all the living areas on the second floor in case New Orleans floods
“Rebuild Renew: Sustainable Design for the Holy Cross District”: Ken Gowland, New Orleans, La.
Pitt: It’s from a local architect, which we were very happy that a local guy made it in. This one really draws on the venacular of New Orleans housing.
Gowland: We sort of used the historic types of buildings that we build in New Orleans, which makes sense not just from an aesthetic point but also in dealing with flooding, climate, heat.
All the entries rely heavily on the use of recycled and energy efficient materials, like flourescent lights and reclaimed wood and timber. But what stood out for the judges on this design is the way the green roof is incorporated into the plans.
“GreeN.O.LA”: Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/APD, New York, N.Y.
Pitt: In planting the roofs, they are good for one — capturing water and two — keeping the place clean. And it’s relatively easy to do.
“Breathe”: Steve Dumez of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, New Orleans, La.
The sixth finalist, also from New Orleans, designed windmills and river turbines to generate the electricity necessary to heat and cool the apartments.
Harnessing available energy is what Global Green wants builders everywhere to do.
Pitt: Yeah, again the change in thought is more … it’s more harnessing the available energy that’s there.
Curry: You know what’s really interesting about this is that this kind of thinking is oftentimes just reserved … it’s reserved for rich people, yet this kind of …
Petersen: Right, and it’s a real misconception. I mean, just the whole green movement is … it’s kind of misunderstood. There’s a real stigma with … that it’s for the rich and that it’s about tree hugging and saving whales. But there are these benefits, but it goes so far beyond that. And it’s really a question of our way of life. And can we live healthier.
Pitt: What if a city could actually produce more energy than it consumed? What if it could actually filter the air instead of pollute the air? And this is a new paradigm that we’re gonna have to adopt. It’s a long time coming, but we gonna have to start now and start advancing these technologies.