The Funky New Houses in the Ninth Ward

November 17th, 2010

I hope to write a bit more about our visit to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, one of the areas in the city that was hit the hardest by Hurricane Katrina, but for now I am just posting photos of the modern raised houses that are going up in a few sections of this old, very much alive and joy filled neighborhood.

Brad Pitt is one of the people helping to fund this project.

The new houses are built with sustainability and flood endurance in mind.

They are certainly a departure from traditional New Orleans home architecture.

What do you think about them?


  • They’re very unique & lovely. The scrolled railings are gorgeous!

  • Carol:

    Ingenious and prudent; it will definitely flood again sometime, and the raised houses remind me of the ones on the beaches of Hawaii.

  • some kid:

    Well, hooray for all the wealthy [white?] folks that can move in and gentrify the area, now that all those impoverished brown people are gone. God knows the 9th ward didn’t matter when the only people living there were citizens too poor even to evacuate in front of an advancing hurricane. But now that the inhabitants can afford fancy cars to park under their too cute avant-garde raised houses, well…! Good for Brad Pitt!

    P.S. Okay, I’m sorry, this is mean/full of assumptions/off the handle/offensive etc. I know. I just saw the manicured lawns and new cars and got a little pissed. The 9th ward may be attractive and well cared-for now, but neither the government nor private citizens (I’m looking at you, Mr. Pitt) gave a damn about the conditions there before the storm (and yes, the many problems contributing to the disaster, including the condition of the levies, was known before Katrina hit) so their concern seems a bit late and insufficient. Additionally, as a citizen of one of the states that received literally thousands of Katrina refugees (yes, they were refugees) I know that many of the refugees never were able to return to their homes. As far as I see it, anyone living in those fancy houses now who didn’t live there before Katrina and didn’t buy the land from whoever did, is a squatter.

    • Kay in KCMO:

      some kid, in my, and perhaps others’ defense, I had never heard/read the phrase “Ninth Ward” until Hurricane Katrina. I’ve never been to New Orleans and am not at all familiar with the neighborhoods. I used to live in Wisconsin. Have *you* ever heard of the Coulee Region? I also used to live in the Twin Cities. Have you ever heard of Dinkytown? People don’t know what they don’t know and it’s impossible to know everything and that’s OK. Brad Pitt, like me and millions of others, might not have ever heard the phrase “Ninth Ward” until Katrina. That’s just the way it is. ::shrugs:: I’m not a bad person because I wasn’t aware of the Ninth Ward prior to Katrina and neither is anyone else. And you’re not a bad person because you might not have ever heard of the Coulee Region or Dinkytown or Coleman Highlands or Old Hyde Park or Westport (the latter three all neighborhoods in my city).

      The houses that Brad Pitt is helping to sponsor are going to the original residents – that was/is the point of the project. Rich white people aren’t muscling in and crowding out the natives. Do some googling and you’ll see the point of the project. Are there exceptions? Maybe so. But those exceptions, if they exist, wouldn’t negate the good that ‘s being done.

      • Rechelle:

        Kay and some kid- I am still learning, but from what I have heard and read the ninth ward was never a ‘bad neighborhood’ or a slum or any other derogatory term that means place where poor people live. Instead it was and still is a vital neighborhood of people who owned their own homes and had pride in where they lived. When I was there – kids were playing football in the front yard and bicycling in the streets. I felt as safe walking in that area as I do in my own neighborhood. Yes, there is still severely damaged homes and vacant lots, but the vacant lots are predominantly mowed and kept tidy and many of the homes have been fixed back up and are beautifully and joyfully redone in a spirit of determination and pride. I could live in the ninth ward. I could raise my kids there. It’s probably not perfect, but neither is my own neighborhood. There is after all – one very garrulous atheist here. ;) But seriously – from my brief observation, the lower ninth ward has always probably been a supremely inhabitable place which is why it was such a captivating story and why (from my current understanding) so many folks have been moved to help.

        • Bridget:

          Rechelle: That is a good summary of what is going on in New Orleans. When I lived there most of the Ninth Ward was not one of the “bad” neighborhoods. I was born and raised in DC for most of my life and DC the lines between the “bad” neighborhoods and the “good” neighborhoods are clearly drawn. New Orleans is much different as all the neighborhoods are very mixed- you can be walking down a safe, quite street and then turn a corner on the next block and you will find yourself in the midst of a run down, unsafe, “bad neighborhood”. Some areas of New Orleans have become gentrified, but a lot of them are a mix of urban/suburban/”slum”/gentrification. But the lower ninth was an inhabitable area and needed to be helped long before Katrina and Katrina was almost a blessing for that area because now people are stepping into help.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    It’s good to see houses being built there. Who lives there? The original residents? The houses are very modern and a bit more stark than the original houses, but they do have spirit and are sure different. IT did make me happy to look at them and I look forward to more detail.

    • Rechelle:

      There seems to be a mix. I think there are former residents and new residents. Most of the homes that are there are older ones that have been repaired or newer ones that are built in the style of the older homes. The modern ones are an anomaly.

  • judy:

    Some folks in our community went down and helped with a habitat program….and what they reported back was all about how the residents were so thankful for all the help by groups large (like Pitt’s) and small. These were “original” residents who had stayed or came back. I am sure there are many who left that won’t ever come back. And by the way, from the pictures this group had, this place still has so very far to go. Streets still completely empty and uninhabited, and other situations like an elderly man they spoke to who is living in his FEMA trailer and trying to fix his house by himself.

  • It’s not my personal taste of architecture but we’re talking about saving lives here, right? It is nice to see them brightly colored though.

  • Bridget:

    I like that they kept the shotgun style of house that is typical of New Orleans/the South, but I am not sure how I feel about the beachy look of the houses. I really like the houses in the first couple of pictures and some of the houses remind me of houses I have seen in other parts of Louisiana and in parts of New Orleans especially the last picture. I do like the modern twist they have given the houses. It is just wonderful to see that people are getting down there and building the area back up. I went to visit friends about a year and half after Katrina and that city was a huge mess. It looked like no time had passed, so it is good to see that progress is being made.

    And yes- Purple Haze is the raspberry Abita Beer. For a long time they couldn’t figure out how to bottle the beer because they couldn’t get the raspberries to stop fermenting and so the bottles kept exploding, so for awhile it was only put into kegs. Now it has been bottled, so to me the bottled beer Purple Haze taste different/not as good as the keg version. But really I am just happy to have it in any form.

    It looks like ya’ll had a really good trip. And the review of the trip is excellent.

  • kelly:

    Well my first reaction was to the architecture… sort of reminds me of a trailer with a mid century twist. My second thought was handicapped accessibility… all those stairs, are there lifts in the houses?

  • Wow, I really like them! Makes sense to have them built up a bit, and they’re interesting.

  • We’ve made several trips to the 9th Ward in the past three years to work on a home that destroyed by Katrina. Our first visit was a year after Katrina. We drove through the area where the homes pictured in your post are located. The devastation was beyond words. Last summer, we went back for another round of work and drove out one evening to the same area. It was really cool to see the progress.

    Did you get to see the Habitat for Humanity homes? They have a more traditional “New Orleans” style and are painted the most beautiful colors. They reminded me of a box of crayons.

    We loved our time in New Orleans. The people in the Ward were gracious and loving. The site where we were working didn’t have a working bathroom so a couple of times a day, we’d load up the van and take the girls to the McDonald’s down the street. We’d arrive absolutely filthy (imagine tearing down plaster in 100 degree weather). Without fail, someone would approach me, shake my hand and thank my group for coming to New Orleans. We’d have people stop by the work site to thank us for our work.

    I’ve never physically worked so hard in my entire life, but I’ve also never experienced anything quite so rewarding.