Copyright 2003-2022

FLOAT House | Los Angeles, CA – New Orleans, LA | Morphosis Architects

Project Role: Design research, design and documentation, physical construction and assembly, construction administration
UCLA Student Team: Linda Fu, Saji Matuk, Ian Ream, Monica Ream, Erin Smith, Jeanne Legier Stahl, Ryan Whitacre
Morphosis Team: Thom Mayne, Brandon Welling, Andrea Manning, Patrick Dunn-Baker, Alex Deutschman

This house is one of 13 affordable, single-family residences proposed as part of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation – an organization developed with the mission to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward, which was destroyed by flooding resulting from Hurricane Katrina. In the spring of 2008, students began collaborating with Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis on the development of their submission, and continued the research previously undertaken by Morphosis for a macro-scale redevelopment of the New Orleans area. Working in two teams, the students used their research of prefabricated housing around the world to develop design proposals for both the chassis and shell components of the house. Construction documents were produced in the summer of 2008, and construction began on site in Los Angeles, CA in November. At the beginning of July 2009, the chassis and all prefabricated elements were put onto flatbed trucks and shipped to New Orleans to be assembled on site in the Lower Ninth Ward. FLOAT House was completed in October 2009, and is on track to receive a LEED Platinum rating. It is the first permitted floating house in the United States.

From Morphosis:


Our concept is twofold:

1_ To design a foundation that enables the house to function independently of the basic infrastructure and public services that have yet to be adequately repaired in the Lower Ninth Ward and which are likely to fail again.

2_ To create a new house that rests upon that foundation but is wholly integrated with the natural environment, respectful of New Orleans vernacular, and enriched with sustainable technologies.

To accomplish this, the foundation of the house must be simultaneously specific and forgiving, like the chassis of a car. The chassis hosts all of the essential mechanical and technological equipment to provide the house with power and water. Additionally, the foundation should protect the house from future water and weather threats. To accomplish this, the foundation is engineered out of expanded polystyrene foam encased in glass fiber reinforced concrete. This composite results in a strong, resilient foundation that will float with the rising flood water.


New Orleans will not endure without a broad, macro-scale vision that addresses and synthesizes the region’s unique social, cultural, economic, and ecological conditions. We have responded to the Make It Right Foundation’s initiative “... to be a catalyst for redevelopment of the Lower Ninth Ward, by building a neighborhood comprised of safe and healthy homes that are inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking, with an emphasis on high quality design, while preserving the spirit of the community’s culture,” with what we consider a micro-scale solution to the region’s problems - a prototype for a single family dwelling that addresses the immediate and critical need for safe and healthy housing in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Our design is also connected to a much broader, longer term planning concept of the entire region. We envision that this prototype would facilitate a strategy for transforming and preparing New Orleans as a whole for a safer and healthier future. This macro-scale vision entails a radical, but gradual, return of much of the flooded areas to nature as wetlands and parklands with the simultaneous restoration of the city to its original high ground status; thus introducing a more sustainable approach to living in the New Orleans environment.

Ultimately, this strategic planning concept aims to return New Orleans to an optimal state, one that accommodates the population, albeit in a denser and more compact urban environment, and that restores the region’s natural attributes with the goal of creating a city that is sustainable, feasible, efficient and safe.

More on the web:
Morphosis | ArchDaily | Dezeen | Dwell | NPR

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