Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation offered New Orleans residents in the exceptionally hard-hit and predominantly black Lower Ninth Ward new homes. Residents were sold houses designed by starchitects like Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne for around $150,000, roughly $100,000 under their construction cost as a gesture of good will.
The area around Tennessee Street in the Lower Ninth is reminiscent of a digital rendering in Architectural Digest, notsomuch a neighborhood in a district known for 19th-century shotgun houses. The properties were built with a variety of requirements- low cost, flood protection, energy efficiency, a porch. The porch being the only neighborhoodly tenet the firms kept up with. Still, residents loved their homes and were thankful for Brad Pitt’s contribution.
But the houses didn’t last. The materials rotted, the construction was shoddy, the electrical wiring caused fires and water crept in. Residents complained, even after signing NDAs about the troubles with their houses, but were met with MIR pointing fingers at its other limbs. Nothing, not a successful lawsuit against the company that provided the eco-friendly, water resistant wood used in the homes, useless for wet, humid Louisiana, and not the firing and suing of various people involved in the project, have netted the residents substantial money for their faulty houses. They’ve had to pay for extensive repairs out of pocket, start GoFundMe campaigns or have simply had to walk away. Two of the houses have been demolished and at least six are completely abandoned. Well, the houses are experiments, some involved with the Foundation have argued, experiments fail.
“Shouldn’t architectural experiments, however well intentioned, be limited to clients who can afford to walk away if the experiment fails?”
Martin C. Pedersen, Architectural Record
There was some glimmer of hope in 2022, when environmental non-profit Global Green underwrote Make It Right and offered to pay the $20.5 million. But they didn’t have the money. Now, Mayor Cantrell supports Global Green’s revised plan to pay $5 million to the residents. Global Green is also sourcing funds via GoFundMe.
While Brad Pitt meant well and isn’t necessarily to blame for all this, I will point out that the sale price of any one of his houses would cover the costs of the lawsuit and make it right.