Buildings designed by Frank Gehry tend to function both as city landmarks and tourist attractions, and they certainly don’t come cheap. His works, which have been cited as among the most important works of contemporary architecture by World Architecture Survey, include include the titanium-covered Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, constructed at a cost of $100 million, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, which came in at around $274 million (the parking garage alone cost $110 million). But now “the most important architect of our age” has a new feather in his cap: a 1,780-sqaure-foot green duplex in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, which sold for $200,000.
Gehry is one of 21 local and international architects recruited by Brad Pitt as part of the actor’s effort to build 150 houses in this neighborhood, through his non-profit organization, the Make It Right Foundation. The non-profit was founded in 2007, after Pitt toured the Lower 9th Ward — one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, in 2005 — only to find it in still largely decimated. Pitt started Make It Right with the goal of building 150 green homes in the area; in recent years, the foundation has expanded operations in the area to include other aspects of sustainable community infrastructure in the Lower 9th Ward, including native landscaping, micro-farms, rain gardens and even new streets.
We’ve covered a number of Make It Right homes, each of which were designed to showcase green building principles, reduce the utility bills paid by homeowners, and increase the neighborhood’s resilience in the face of another Katrina. Those who owned homes destroyed by the storm in the neighborhood are expected to come up with as much funding as they can toward the purchase price of their new, high-performance green home (with a little help from relief funding and/or insurance pay outs), with the price for a single-family residence coming in at around $150,000, and $200,000 for a duplex. (According to the foundation’s website, these are the going rates for conventionally built homes in the city.)
Make It Right’s Gehry-designed duplex includes a three-bedroom, two-bathroom front house and a one-bedroom, one-bath rear house, as well as a host of green features. These include post-industrial recycled hardwood floors, zero-VOC paint, and efficient, tankless water heaters. Archinect reports that the duplex also features Lumos LSX frameless solar modules that handily double as a waterproof canopy, providing shade for two rooftop terraces. The $200,000 price tag for the duplex — like all homes built through Make It Right — come with LEED Platinum certification.
One thing Gehry didn’t choose for the building was its pink-and-lilac exterior paint — but by all accounts, he’s happy with the homeowners’ choice. “I wanted to make a house that I would like to live in and one that responded to the history, vernacular and climate of New Orleans,” Gehry said, in a Make It Right press release. “I love the colors that the homeowner chose. I could not have done it better.”