Jill Fehrenbacher

MVRDVNewerOrleans

Since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast last fall, well-meaning architects, designers and planners the world over have been scrambling to submit proposals for rebuilding New Orleans. Surprisingly, however, the discussion has mainly been concentrated around what to rebuild – sidestepping the deeper issues of how and why rebuild in a floodplain at all. It is common knowledge that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen, simply because of the physical geological situation of the area. The city sits below sea-level in an area of former wetlands, surrounded by water in every direction – sandwiched between a giant lake, the Mississippi river and the ocean. Clearly the only acceptable proposals for rebuilding New Orleans are ones that propose a solution to deal with the almost certain likelihood of being flooded again.


Sometimes it takes an outsider with a fresh pair of eyes to realize the obvious. In this case, it was the syncronicity between a New Orleans schoolgirl named Courtney S. and Dutch architectural firm MVRDV which led to a great idea for rebuilding New Orleans: build hills! The idea is so simple, so sensible, so obvious, and yet strangely no-one had seriously proposed it. Until now….

MVRDV explains:

“We came across a drawing of one schoolkid. She drew this hill with people walking up to the top in the rain. It had something religious as well as sentimental to it, but the simpleness was highly appealing. Perhaps we should realize her dream.. A school that can serve as a public hill, from where everyone can look over the neighborhood, the city, the landscape. A clear haven. Where children play. With benches and swings in the trees…”

MVNewerOrleans
MVNewerOrleans

The design proposal is not just a hill – but a structure with buildings and public spaces embedded inside. All the inhabitable structures are situated above sealevel and are designed to be safe in case of emergency.

MVRDV’s proposal for rebuilding New Orleans was one of 8 designs commissioned by the Netherlands Architecture Institure (NAI). Together with the Tulane University School of Architecture and the American art magazine Artforum, the NAI asked six renowned architecture practices from the Netherlands and the U.S.A. to develop visions for symbolic and shared spaces for New Orleans. The practices are MVRDV, Ben van Berkel (UN Studio) and Adriaan Geuze (West 8) from the Netherlands, and Huff + Gooden Architects, Morphosis and Hargreaves Associates from the USA. The exhibition will becoming to the US sometime this year.

+ MVRDV

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4 Comments

  1. Cris January 26, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    I have been studying the culture of a Native American tribe for more than a year and the history overall of the Native culture in the South East of the United States and this idea of rebuilding New Orleans in the Mounds is actually not a new in history. Once upon a time, the Native American in the South East used to build over mounds. They were called the Mound Builders and there are still sites with remain of their legacy in Louisiana. I think the idea of MVDRV is not out of this world and it seems like a fine solution, but we have to keep in mind first the scale of the project and the resources that it will take to build a mound of that scope.

  2. Jim June 19, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    I think it makes sense for house boats to be used, rather than single wide mobile homes. Both for FEMA supplied trailers and for homeowners wanting a safer design for the next time New Orleans fills up with water.

    I was thinking that a houseboat with one or more strong anchor chains attached to it, the anchor chains cemented in the ground, and also a way to secure the houseboats by anchor chain higher up the chain near the top of the anchor chain, so that hurricane winds do not blow the houseboats over, but that you can then detach the short anchoring, leaving the long anchor lines in place, so that when New Orleans fills up with water, the house boats merely float at the surface, attached to their anchor lines so they don’t float away, and when the water subsides they settle back down. Then they are put back onto their properties by cranes and the short anchoring is secured again.

    The result is way less financial losses and disruption to homeowners and to the City. Property fences would need to be pretty low or nonexistent, so that when the house boats settle down, they are not resting crooked on a fence.

  3. Alice Williams June 17, 2006 at 7:18 am

    I almost cried when I saw the childs drawing and then I smiled at the MVDRV proposed rendering for the renewal of a “New” Orleans. Oh, to look at the world around us, with the eyes of a child!

  4. Inhabitat » Blog ... June 15, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    [...] MVDRV is best known for their playful rethinking of traditional architecture tropes. We recently featured one of their proposals for the redevelopment of New Orleans, and there is a ton of good stuff hidden on their flashy flash website. Check it out > [...]

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