It was a fateful day, forever etched into the memories of those who live on the American Gulf Coast, and beyond: August 29, 2005. This was the day Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the City of New Orleans, killing 1,577 people. Ground zero for Katrina, so to speak, was the historic Lower 9th Ward, where more than 4,000 homes were destroyed by a combination of surge-water (caused by the breach of the Industrial Canal levee) and the effects of the storm itself.
Two years later, you would expect that much of the area wiped out by the storm would be re-built and re-inhabited. But such was not the case when Brad Pitt–yes, the world-famous actor, of both cinematic and Brangelina fame–toured the City of Dreams. He found the Lower 9th Ward, a once-vibrant neighborhood, was still silent, desolate and destroyed.
Frustrated by what he saw as both a failure of government and a general lack of progress, Pitt met with local community groups and families to see what he could do–and shortly thereafter, established the Make It Right Foundation, a non-profit organization charged with a mission to build 150 green, affordable, high-quality homes in the neighborhood closest to the levee breach–a.k.a., the Lower 9th Ward.
The organization was first envisioned in December of 2006 and officially launched a year later, bringing national attention (and $12 in donations) to the need for re-building in New Orleans. Make It Right broke ground on its first project in March of 2008 and since that time, has completed over 70 new homes designed by 21 local, national and international architects, who donated their designs for single family homes and duplexes. (Make It Right’s architects were selected largely by Graftlab, an architecture firm and founding partner in the organization.)
Talk about a comeback: because all of the homes built by Make It Right to date have been certified as LEED Platinum for their energy efficiency and sustainability, the section of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward rebuilt by this organization is now “the largest, greenest neighborhood of single family homes in America,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council.