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SEEDing Higher Ground
A sustainable strategy for living in New Orleans
New Orleans is a major cultural incubator that has contributed deeply to the musical, culinary and literary landscape of the United States. It is extremely fragile in ecological terms and recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the oil well failure in the Gulf have revealed a city in need of better strategies to cope with these events.
In looking at the future of the city, the two major issues to address and design for are socio-economic and environmental. In this proposal for New Orleans, our goal is to create a network of community-scaled catalysts to spur social and economic vitality based on the existing cultural assets and industrial advantages of the city while planning for a network of refuges in anticipation of the next natural disaster.
On abandoned or derelict sites, we have proposed to plant a network of "SEEDs" (Social, Economic and Environmental Destinations). Each SEED takes the form of a community-scaled cultural or social center such as a music/performance venue, marketplace, sports facility or library coupled with a related educational facility for music, cooking, sports or literature, which builds on New Orleans' rich cultural legacies. Each center is combined with a tourist hotel that brings visitors in contact with locals and, along with continuous street-level retail/commercial space, provides an additional local source of income to residents. Connecting these functions and rising more than three stories above the floodplain is a publicly accessible, multi-level park-scape that acts as a roof to the civic and commercial functions below and a neighborhood amenity above. Each SEED draws 100 percent of its own energy needs from a combination of locally available sources, predominantly geothermal and solar, that allows it to function independent from the city grid.
The inevitability of another hurricane and an associated impact is undeniable. During such an event, each SEED would 'trip' into emergency mode, whereby the hotel, elevated park-scape and indoor public spaces serve as fully operational, temporary shelters for affected residents. Together, on-site power generation, water purification, a 7-day food and medicine storehouse and a park-level helipad all allow the SEED to function independent of the grid and provide substantial local relief.
Aside from the economic benefits of introducing buildings designated and programmed with the social and cultural infrastructure necessary to promote and maintain economic success, SEEDing New Orleans is also a way to balance the ecology of the floodplain in which New Orleans sits. By re-introducing natural vegetation displaced by decades of development, these green, elevated park-scapes become catalysts for a "greening" of the entire city, which aid in lowering heat levels, improve air quality and significantly reduce stormwater runoff.
Thus, these SEEDs are intended to provide a level of urban resilience to the city of New Orleans. By 2030, we hope the levees and the infrastructure necessary to prevent the flooding and destruction we saw in 2005 will be adequately improved. However, there will still be hurricanes and there will still be a potential need to provide safety during large storms. In terms of daily life, there is and will continue to be a need to support the communities and their entrepreneurs, provide educational opportunities to current and future generations and a need to provide creative outlets for the multitude of artists, musicians, chefs and writers that call New Orleans home. Our proposal speaks to these issues and to the vision of a healthier, happier, safer and more productive New Orleans.