The new pink and purple house at 1750 Tennessee St. is the undisputed prima donna of actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right post-Katrina Lower 9th Ward neighborhood development. Designed by internationally celebrated architect Frank Gehry, known for his cityscape-altering museums and concert halls, the crape myrtle-colored duplex will increase the attractiveness of the ecologically sustainable, affordable housing development that is already a New Orleans tourist magnet.
Make It Right’s research, design and development manager Jordan Pollard put the house’s cultural cache in perspective when he pointed out that Gehry is so well known he’s been a guest character the on “The Simpsons” television show.
“If you’ve been on ‘The Simpsons,’ you’re immortalized,” he said.
The Gehry house may be the rosy new darling of the modernist enclave, but there’s nothing frilly or fussy about the clapboard-sided, tin-roofed design. Rather, the structure has a severe quality, with blocky stacked segments, steeply inclined exterior staircases, an abruptly flat awning on top. Aside from the whimsical colors, no effort has been made to soften or decorate the design.
Yet there’s an ineffably playful aspect to the plan. To climb the stairs to the raised front porch, then ascend the narrow inside staircase to the broad second story balcony, then take the outside gangway to the shaded third-story upper deck, is like shimmying to a tree house. This is residential design the way Peter Pan might imagine it.
Pollard, who was born in Baton Rouge, said he’d love to have a crawfish boil up on the breeze-swept, sun-dappled roof. The Los Angeles-based Gehry design team, he said, was aware that the South Louisiana climate allowed for months of comfortable outdoor activity, so they emphasized the exterior areas. The almost 2,000 square feet of interior living space is more-or-less matched by outdoor porches and decks, Pollard said.
The Gehry team also strove to provide plenty of sunlight, incorporating oversized windows into some rooms. The emphasis on exterior living spaces and windows, Pollard said, “can make a small room feel a lot larger.”
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