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Gehry-Tannen Modgun designed for in-fill neighborhood housing throughout New Orleans with green building guidance from Global Green USA
New Orleans, La - June 17, 2009 - Local artist and urban planner Robert Tannen of Creative Industry has collaborated with world renowned architect Frank Gehry and green building advocacy group Global Green USA to create a house design that is affordable, sustainable, and compatible with most neighborhoods in New Orleans, including historic districts.

Rending of 2 bedroom Modgun House

Tannen developed the modular shotgun, or “Modgun” shortly after the storm and executed the design for a 2006 show at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The Modgun was geared toward incorporating sustainability, affordability, and preservation of traditional local architectural styles to yield a model that would best facilitate the return of New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. It was planned to allow builders or homeowners to build one room at a time, adding each as funds became available, and offering a sustainable housing form for post-disaster housing as an alternative to trailers or Katrina Cottages which are not safe in storms. The original, full-scale Modgun, built by Tannen, Chris Meehan and Joel Ross, was presented at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art during Tannen’s 50 year retrospective exhibition in August 2008 and a full scale module has been on display since then at the Uptown property of Adam Marcus and Valerie Besthoff. 
To further develop the original Modgun design, Tannen invited Frank Gehry to contribute design ideas for the Modgun. Tannen has worked with Gehry on several projects over the past 25 years including the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi Mississippi and a group of decommissioned U.S. military sites for future ecotourism facilities in the former Panama Canal Zone. Tannen hoped that the integration of Gehry’s unique perspective would yield an even more feasible, affordable, architecturally creative and ecologically efficient design. 

Tannen and Gehry’s collaboration produced the “Gehry - Tannen Modgun,” an innovative yet replicable, and affordable design with a traditional shotgun design foundation that is ideal for seamless infill development utilizing the numerous vacant and blighted lots throughout the city. Particularly suited for historic neighborhoods, the shotgun influenced design is a compatible and appropriate fit among existing architecturally significant buildings.
“We are proud to be involved in the efforts to help rebuild homes in the heart of New Orleans. Working with Bob’s original idea for modular housing, we developed a design that provides sustainable design elements and a contemporary solution to the traditional shotgun house that will allow it to be integrated into many neighborhoods,” said Frank Gehry.

The Modgun design, while based on traditional elements of the 19th century African Caribbean design built for long, narrow New Orleans lots, is geared toward exploring new ways of building with respect to Gulf Coast culture and climate through the use of modular and prefab construction techniques. For example, the Modgun incorporates many cutting edge designs for natural cooling such as screened porches that facilitate air flow, twists and separations between blocks that deviate from the all-in-a-row line-up of the traditional shotgun for increased ventilation and privacy, and oversized windows and doors that allow increased air circulation. Unlike trailers and Katrina cottages, the Modgun can be built one room at a time in conjunction with the needs and funds of residents, and is designed to withstand hurricane conditions including winds of 130 miles per hour. Additionally, the Modgun is aesthetically consistent with the architectural styles of New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods. For example, it’s roof line, though reflective of a typical shotgun roof, is perched at an angle lifted off the top of the house which offers natural cooling while still paying homage to vernacular New Orleans design. The small-scale model which was presented at the unveiling event is now on view at Tannen’s Julia Street gallery, Studio 527 at 527 Julia Street. View the renderings here.

“I’m really excited about this design and the facts that it can go up quickly, and the basic forms of it can be re-arranged in numerous different ways. I think it will be compatible in most any of our settings in Treme, and we really look forward to seeing these come up and the different configurations that can be produced,” said Historic Districts Landmark Commision Executive Director Elliott Perkins.

Other members of the design and development team for this first phase of infill housing in New Orleans neighborhoods, in addition to Creative Industry, include developer Hal Brown of Fortuné Development, LLC, who is providing a site in the 6th ward of New Orleans, on Ursuline Avenue, and will function as the lead development partner on the project.

As part of New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s (NORA) RFP process, the Faubourg Fund, a locally owned minority development firm, purchased the project as part of their local efforts to identify developers, like Fortuné Development, with the capacity to redevelop high quality and well designed properties that can help alleviate blight. Through the Faubourg Fund, Fortuné Development is providing affordable, workforce housing by renovating blighted single, double and tri-plex homes, and building in-fill new construction in the storm damaged neighborhoods of the Treme. NORA dispositions in the Greater Treme area are expected to bring back over 75 homes into commerce through a variety of small and larger partners.

“The [Faubourg] Fund is looking at building affordable workforce housing. We are not building housing for people who can pay half a million dollars for a lovely condo or some of the ritzier properties in the city. We want them to look good and we want them to look very much in the traditional architectural style, but we want to bring them back to have old world charm but modern conveniences at an affordable price,” said Fortuné Development owner Hal Brown.

Also on the design and development team are Ray Manning, AIA, LEED AP, President and CEO of Manning Architects, APAC who will be responsible for final design services; and Global Green USA which is providing sustainable, ecologically conscious features. This team is a natural fit since the Gehry - Tannen Modgun is well-aligned with the mission of Global Green USA, whose post-storm building projects encourage and educate residents to rebuild green, valuing sustainability and efficiency equally balanced with affordability and accessibility and address New Orleans’ unique culture, climate and location. Architect Joel Ross and builder Chris Meehan have contributed to the original Modgun, and will be participating in the project.

"This project helps fulfill Global Green's original vision of inspiring the green rebuilding of the Crescent City and creating green affordable housing in neighborhoods throughout New Orleans," said Global Green President Matt Petersen. "Practical, affordable, compelling, sustainable homes that save money, improve health and reduce global warming emissions must become the standard practice for home construction not just in New Orleans but in cities across the country,” said Peterson.
“We are excited to be a part of the creation of these modular homes which are designed to fit into the New Orleans architectural fabric. As a local architecture firm of LEED accredited professionals, we are familiar with best building practices specific to New Orleans. We are interested in seeking the highest LEED rating for the houses, thereby passing on future savings to home owners,” said studio director of Manning Architects, APAC, Miwako Hattori.

Several vacant home sites within the 6th, 7th and 8th wards of New Orleans have been identified as candidates for the Gehry - Tannen Modgun project. The first model home which will be built on Ursuline Avenue will be offered to a family in need of housing from the area, and will serve as an example to be replicated on other blighted and available sites in the city, and in historic neighborhoods.  

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