The 9th ward in New Orleans has become a crazy quilt of architectural styles since the post-Katrina rebuild. In the overgrown fields of the neighborhood, traditionally built homes sit next to elevated solar powerhouses constructed by the Make It Right Foundation— making it clear that the solutions presented to address the needs of the still-recovering New Orleans community are very different from one another, logistically and culturally. Artist Marjetica Potrč’s solution is to revive a small, classic structure called the shotgun house which is native to the South. In collaboration with sustainable design firm Futureproof, she has created a simple and culturally powerful home and symbol.
A shotgun house is a simple, narrow structure with doors on either end, no hallways. The rumored reason for its name is that it is a straight shot from one door to the other. The style originated in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century and was originally popular as a simple form of housing, but later become associated with poverty. Like many types of homes in the city’s area, it’s slightly elevated, useful for low flooding. A trend towards self-sustainability has also made creating opportunities to collect solar power and rainwater popular and both were included in this “prototype” home.
Potrč grounds her house in the bayou by framing it with two caryatids, sculptural female pillars, that serve as a metaphor for Potrč’s belief that the citizens of New Orleans are the “supporting columns” in reconstructing the new city.
Potrč is known for her architectural model homes and sustainable solutions: her past work has included a tornado shelter, a balcony windmill, an Amazonian primary school, a set of dry toilets, and a fruit and energy farm. The Shotgun House will be on display until next January at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, as part of the exhibition Heartland.
Photos above: Marjetica Potrč, New Orleans: Shotgun House with Rainwater-Harvesting Tank, 2008. Installation view at Max Protetch Gallery, New York, 2008. Photos by Eli Ping Weinberg.