When disaster strikes, it is visualized through its registration on the architectural surface. The distortion and fragmentation of these surfaces are embedded with the history of the attack and, through media dissemination, become the new reality of place. “The crisis,” writes Peter Eisenman, “between reality and its mediation is related to the difference between being there . . . and witnessing it, thousands of miles removed, on a video monitor . . . . Being there has always been the domain of architecture.” These images, however, cannot be forgotten and they will forever change the lens through which place is viewed.
The events of September 11th saw man’s conceptual attack on Western ideology through a physical attack on its embodiment in architecture, and the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina witnessed a natural attack on architecture and urbanism unparalleled in scale in our history. Once the dust settles, however, architecture is again brought to the fore as a tool that embodies rejuvenation and progress, and its successful execution will eventually start to fade the horrifying memories of the disaster. In our proposal, we use this lens constructively to visualize an argument about change and adaptation that registers this duality.
MODIFYING THE MODULAR: Our scheme seeks to expand on the conventional New Orleans housing type’s ability to “promote easy replication and the potential for multiple variations” through the use of contemporary modular construction.
Walter Gropius lamented: “Genuine variety without monotony could have been attainted if we had taken greater interest and influence in the development and design of an ever more comprehensive production of standardized, component building parts which could have been assembled into a wide diversity of housing types. Instead the idea of prefabrication was seized by manufacturing firms who came up with the stifling project of mass producing whole house types instead of component parts only.”
In recent years, however, advances in technology have contributed to significant developments in the fabrication and transportation of modular systems. CNC (computer numerically controlled) technology allows for highly customized components to be manufactured accurately by multiple vendors at a fraction of their original cost and with reduced waste; and, products and materials can flawlessly and efficiently make their way into the assembly process. Furthermore, transportation technologies such as RFID (radio frequency identification device) allow for the precise tracking of all components within the assembly and shipping system such that their integration becomes seamless and dependable. Together, these processes extend the production network with almost infinite possibilities, take advantage of economies of scale, and maintain a high level of quality.
The units can be assembled in multiple configurations and can accommodate almost any site and topological condition. Each can also be specifically customized f or the end user, including not only the preferred size and arrangement of spaces, but the particular interior components as well.
URBAN INTERFACE: An elevated greenscape connects the proposed riverfront park with the city grid bringing together two zones that were previously separated by industrial yards and train tracks. This landscape provides a pastoral setting for the new neighborhood and promotes pedestrian movement through the site. The waterfront is a valuable resource and the approach to its rehabilitation needs to be comprehensive. Our goal is to use innovative and remarkable architecture to connect the existing city to its lost waterfront, to enliven and recreate a potentially magnificent public space, and to create a unique and iconic urban waterfront experience.
1. Peter Eisenman, quoted in The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century (New York, NY: The Monacelli Press, 2003), 60.; 2. Carrie Bernhard & Scott Bernhard, An Introduction to New Orleans Housing Types (Competition Brief, 2006); 3. Walter Gropius, quoted in Herbert Gilbert, The Dream of the Factory-Made House: Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann (Cambridge, Mass.: Press, 1984), 318