Brad Pitt's Katrina Cottages: Energizing or Too Extreme?

The travel section of this Sunday's New York Times had a cool little piece about the houses that Brad Pitt's Make It Right ...
by | December 1, 2009

Makeitright The travel section of this Sunday's New York Times had a cool little piece about the houses that Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation is building in the still-struggling Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

Only 15 of the foundation's planned 150 houses are occupied so far. But they're already making an out-sized impact -- and not just because the guy behind them is Brad Pitt.

Angular, modernist swaths of bright, bold colors, the "Brad Pitt houses" (as they're apparently known by all) bring a completely new aesthetic to the Lower Ninth.

So here's my question: Is that a good thing?

Now don't get me wrong. Of course I think it's great that someone (particularly someone as high-profile as Pitt) is so dedicated on rebuilding this decimated neighborhood. And focusing on rebuilding one house at a time is eminently laudable.

I just wonder about the "differentness" of it all. When Governing's Chris Swope and David Kidd went to the Gulf Coast earlier this year to document post-Katrina cottages in Mississippi, I was struck by the structures' elegant design. They seemed, to me, to be thoughtful, modest updates of the area's popular shotgun houses.

The Pitt houses, by contrast, are bold, drastic reinterpretations. (You can see more house photos here). There's just no way you could pass one without knowing it's a Pitt house. (Maybe that's the point?)

Look, I'm in no way an architecture critic. And I personally don't even dislike the Pitt houses. I think they look cool.

But they just made me wonder: With all the devastation New Orleans suffered in Katrina, and with the ongoing struggle to rebuild the Lower Ninth, are these funky houses just too much?

Do people really want to live in a jarringly modernist slice of angles and colors? Or do they just want a house?

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