The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 6

American architects
Morphosis have
completed a
floating house for
Brad Pitt's Make It
Right Foundation
in New Orleans,
in collaboration
with graduates
of the University
of California,
Los Angeles.
MOPHOSIS ARCHITECTS

Since then, "The Big Easy," home of Cajun food, Mardi Gras and jazz, has greatly
recovered. The population has rebounded to 393,000. But the fully integrated, mature
neighbourhoods within the city, where shops, work places and residences were all in
close proximity to one another, have not been so lucky. One of those portions of the
city fabric, the 9th Ward, where a unique cultural identity had grown and developed,
has been lost.
Many of the older homes were single-storey "shotgun houses," which are usually
only 12 feet (3.5 m) wide, with doors at each end, and rooms strung one behind the
other. Typically only a foot or two above the ground, the houses were built with the
front porch tight against the street, resulting in a strong interactive community identity,
reflecting great diversity and inclusiveness. The houses had been multi-generational
and as a result supportive of family members with disabilities.
Post-Katrina, homes, businesses, schools and supports are gone but the narrow
lots remain, with frontages less than 30 feet (9 m). Consequently, the sparsely built
storm recovery houses are also long and narrow, but are now raised on stilts. While
this feature offers some flood protection (the neighbourhood is still far below sea
level), it has destroyed much of the intimacy of the streets.
Levees and other flood control and prevention structures have been built over many
years, but recent events have shown them to be inadequate. The Louisiana coastal
wetlands continue to disappear at a rate of one football field per hour. Coastal residents have no option but to move - despite the deep connection they hold to the land
they inhabit.
There is an option to address some of the obstacles to maintaining existing homes
within areas that are prone to flooding. Buoyant foundations, or amphibious architecture, works on a principle similar to an anchored houseboat or floating dock. There
is a foundation and a steel frame that holds flotation blocks to the underside of the
structure. The house remains low to the ground except during flooding, when it temporarily elevates to exactly the level required to stay above water. Porches, decks and
other ground-level features are either built in a flood resistant manner or constructed
to rise above the flood with the house. When the flood recedes, the house settles
back on its foundation. The above-grade portions of a retrofitted house look essentially
unchanged, with only the foundation and elements at grade being affected. Only a
guide structure is required so the house holds steady above the foundation, enabling
original traditional architecture to be preserved.
Such a system is much less costly than the permanent static elevation change of
lifting a house. There are no expensive retrofit expenses to deal with, since the house is
unchanged. The municipal water and sewer services are maintained, with only specific
house connections adapted with breakaway features. The roofs of permanently elevated
structures may be exposed to greater wind damage. But, since the house can float
above the flood, the contents, sometimes the most precious memories, are saved.
Just as important, the original character, form and fabric of a neighbourhood remain
intact. It is assumed that residents will evacuate to a safe location during the actual
flood, but the intimacy of the house and the street continues. Floods are temporary
events of short duration, and the communities that have survived these events and
have strong resilience can pull together in the face of crisis.
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The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020

Water
Index to Advertisers
Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - Intro
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - cover1
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - cover2
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 3
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - Water
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 5
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 6
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 7
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 8
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 9
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 10
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - Index to Advertisers
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 12
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - 13
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - cover3
The Right Angle Journal - Spring 2020 - cover4
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