Brad Pitt’s New Orleans Project Gets Mixed Reviews

Monday, Nov 30, 2009

Brad Pitt has made quite an impact on the city of New Orleans since he started building new homes for those devastated by Hurricane Katrina. While the homes are first class, there are mixed reviews about his work and what is being done to help the city.

In an interview with the NY TImes, James Dart, a Manhattan-based architect who was born and raised in New Orleans, described the houses as “alien, sometimes even insulting,” adding, “the biggest problem is that they are not grounded in the history of New Orleans architecture.”
But Dart still expressed admiration for Pitt. “He deserves a great deal of credit,” adding that Pitt had “done more for New Orleans” than any government agency.

In 2007, frustrated by the slow pace of rebuilding in the Lower Ninth, Pitt set up a foundation called Make It Right. According to the NY Times, the foundation then “commissioned 13 architecture firms to design affordable, green houses. The organization plans to build 150 homes, all for returning Lower Ninth residents. So far, just 15 of them are occupied.”

The main route into the Lower Ninth is where the “Brad Pitt Houses” are located. They are sprawling, angular buildings in bold hues not usually seen outside a gelateria and are now becoming New Orleans’s newest tourist attraction.

In more interviews done by the NY Times, Jennifer Pearl, a broker who has several houses for sale in the Lower Ninth, has a practical view. “Brad has the very best intentions,” she said. “However, had he come here with houses that looked like what had been here before, he probably could have had four times, five times as many houses up by now.”

Another issue with the houses is their elevation: to protect them from future floods, they have been built on stilts that turn their front porches into catwalks. The goal of porches is to create a sense of community, and that’s hard to do when neighbors and passersby are literally overshadowed.

“It’s like New York — you know, the skyscrapers,” said Ms. LeBlanc, who lives in a single-story house next to one of the much larger Make It Right creations. “And there are going to be more,” she added.