The Kids Are Alright

Date: 
Apr 26, 2009

Source: The Kids Are Alright

Earlier this month I traveled to the great city of New Orleans to serve as a guest judge for the Billes Architecture Home Design Competition. The firm, which is working with Brad Pitt on the Make It Right initiative, gave architecture students a challenging brief, and they responded with youthful gusto. On April 11, principal and founder Gerald Billes presented $1,000 checks to the five winning teams at a ceremony at the Renaissance Arts Hotel in the Warehouse District. Later I learned that some jurors wrote lengthy assessments of the ten finalists, while I merely checked boxes. To correct that oversight I’m offering belated “judge’s comments” on each of the winners, along with a plug for one of my favorites that failed to take top honors.

First a little bit about the program. Students were asked to design a 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot home for one of four neighborhoods in the city: Uptown, Downtown, Gentilly/Lakeview, or New Orleans East. The home needed to be eligible for gold or platinum LEED certification; to be raised to what local officials call the Advisory Base Flood Elevation; and to come in between $150,000 and $225,000 (more on that later).

The contestants were either fourth-year undergraduates or first-year master’s students. Michael Jemtrude, director of McGill’s School of Architecture, incorporated the competition into his classes, which explains the preponderance of Canadians in the final five. Keep in mind, all of my comments are completely subjective (and quite possibly wrong) and done in the spirit of respect and constructive criticism. Congratulations all around!