By Kira Gould
Last December, Katherine Grove of William McDonough + Partners and Richard Maimon, of Kieran Timberlake, shared the stage at Ecobuild in Washington, DC. They were invited to discuss their work at the Make It Right project in New Orleans, where Cradle to Cradle provides a framework for the design of the community and of individual homes by several firms.
Kira Gould: Cradle to Cradle is often understood as having mostly to do with materials, but its function as a framework at Make It Right seems to highlight both that it is more complex and that “safe and healthy” are at its core. Can you summarize the basics of the concept and talk about how those translate into a usable framework for design teams?
Grove: Cradle to Cradle thinking, as developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book, suggests that everything we create can contribute positively to society, the economy, and the environment. Our team is using it to guide design and materials selection for the new Make It Right homes. We want the products and construction methods used at Make It Right to be safe for people and the environment. Product selections for the homes, for instance, consider materials as nutrients and recognize the two safe metabolisms in which they flow. Looking at buildings, the challenge is that the goal is the same, and the variables are greater. You are still trying to define health and abundance in a specific place at a specific time. The Cradle to Cradle framework in the Lower 9th ward is focused on safety for all living things and on the concept of restoration and restorative practices to address the cultural and social history of the place.
Maimon: The striking thing about Make It Right is that its goals are so much greater than “provide shelter”. The entire effort was founded on making a neighborhood for the people who had lost everything. This is not just about buildings and the materials that go into them, but it is also about people and how they live in a place.
Gould: Lots of lip service is paid to the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary teams as part of the pathway toward successful design results and especially for achieving high-level sustainability or performance goals. How was such interdisciplinary collaboration realized here? And why was it critical?
Maimon: We believe that the only way to achieve superior results in design and architecture is through maximizing collaboration with the entire team: consultants, builders, neighborhood residents, etc. We need this input to have the rich basis on which the design can rest. In this project, the inclusion of community organizations and the residents themselves was absolutely critical. The 13 architecture firms who participated, along with William McDonough + Partners, Graft, and John Williams Architects, in the first round, would never have been able to execute their designs effectively without the input of these groups: They know what matters about this place—the landscape, the climate, the culture, the history. All of that was hugely informative to the design.
Grove: The Make It Right organization has been consistently committed to honoring that community engagement in a significant, ongoing way. That is just one element of what I would call a constant layering of collaboration throughout the process. READ MORE >>
Founded in 2006, the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED) works to stimulate civic engagement, repopulate, sustain natural systems, assist community leadership and preserve resources in the Lower 9th Ward neighborhoods.
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