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Structured for New Orleans

September 14, 2006|Nancy Yoshihara

IS tradition-bound New Orleans ready for some modernist housing?

Brad Pitt wondered if the ravaged city might be open to green architecture. Global Green USA's mission is sustainable cities. The actor, who has a passion for intelligent design, teamed up with the nonprofit to sponsor the Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans.

The competition was won by Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of workshop/apd. Their multifamily housing complex of 18 units -- 12 apartments and six single-family homes -- is the first green project by the Manhattan-based firm, which specializes in high-end, single-family homes.

"To us as architects, it's still about design, about looking good," Berman said. "It was encouraged that we take a contemporary look at this situation and not just take what is there."

The architects spent time talking with residents and working with Holy Cross Neighbor Assn. to better understand the community.

Most wanted the new to look exactly like the homes they lost. But wood, Berman says, is not the best material for a humid environment.

"You don't want to rebuild to look like old buildings.... That devalues the historic building. We call it the Disneyland effect," he said.

Instead, workshop/apd created housing that includes features like deep overhangs, porches and high ceilings -- things that residents wanted -- but also "a modern aesthetic of today," Berman said.

-- Nancy Yoshihara

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