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Plans will reflect unique architectural styles

Project will recreate genetic code of Coast housing

The Coast lost 31,000 homes to Katrina, an incredible wealth of different architectural styles. But as part of the Governor’s Commission effort, two plans books that normally would cost about $300,000 are being developed that will provide drawings of many of the most popular styles of Coast homes.

“The Gulf Coast High-Efficiency Plans” book will include plans that are eminently affordable, either as a result of reduced size, reduced complexity or both. The Gulf Coast Full-Feature Plans book will include plans of typical Stock Plan/Custom Built complexity and construction cost.

Ann Somers, president of American Institute of Architects in Mississippi, said the Gulf Coast plans book will be useful not just on the Coast, but the rest of the state, too. She said the Coast has its own unique architectural styles, and this book will reflect those. With all the architects who converged on Biloxi for the Mississippi Renewal Forum, one preconceived idea was that Coast architecture was the same as New Orleans architecture. Somers said while some architecture on the Coast is similar to New Orleans, the Coast also has a diversity of other styles.

The Gulf Coast plans books are being developed by Steve Mouzon, principal of the New Urban Guild, a design agency in Miami. The idea is that the books can be used to recreate the genetic code of Coast housing. The books will contain the kind of details that can be used by architects and builders to recreate the special homes of the Gulf Coast.

People can purchase plans from the architects who are submitting plans to the Gulf Coast plan books. The plan books could help recreate distinctive neighborhoods with lots of variety rather than a subdivision with look-alike houses.

“Typically a developer will come in and have a few plans built in that development,” Somers said. “You get cookie- cutter houses that all look the same. What Andres Duany (the Miami architect who headed the Mississippi Renewal Forum) was suggesting was having more than a few plans to work with. If you had three developers who literally swapped land from one development to another, you would have more diversity. And then you would leave some spots in there for small builders so you had even more diversity in these large subdivisions.”

There is normally a good bit of competition between different developers. But there is little reason to believe that will be an issue on the Coast now for many years.

“There is no competition because there is so much to be rebuilt,” Somers said. “Duany asked developers to work with each other to make the developments better.

Mouzon said development of the Gulf Coast plan books is being fast tracked with many architects and designers who are submitting plans burning the midnight oil — and putting off other projects — in order to help with the Gulf Coast rebuilding.

“It has been a wonderfully good situation so far,” Mouzon said. “With all of us having juggled so many things out of way to do the six-day charrette in Biloxi, we had to wonder if the participants would have time to follow up later.”

“But we are seeing a tremendous amount of follow up being done,” said Mouzon. “Participants are continuing to bump other clients back because it is a thing of such historic importance that we have to step up to the plate. A lot of people have done nothing since the charrette except work on Mississippi plans.”

There will be one-stop shopping for the house plans. While a large number of different architects will be providing plans, they all can be ordered through the New Urban Guild at www.newurbanguild.com.

Mouzon said that the Gulf Coast High-Efficiency Plans book includes simple, small houses that could be built as an alternative to FEMA trailers in areas hit by disasters. The small homes could be used as a guest cottage, office or workshop after the family builds a larger home. The house plans are designed to be simple, charming, utilitarian and fast to get up.

While they hope to get the plan books out quickly, it isn’t like publishing a regular book. “In this case we must have contracts with all the architects or designers for selling their plans after the fact,” Mouzon said. “It won’t be something we can do next week. A small collection of a dozen plans will be out in pamphlet format very quickly, probably by the first of December. The High-Efficiency Plans book should be out in early 2006, right after the first of the year. The full Gulf Coast Full-Feature Plans book will be out after that, as quickly as we can do it right.”

People in hurricane-affected areas of the state will receive the plans at half-price. “Obviously, we can’t do it for nothing,” Mouzon said. “But everyone is taking as big a cut as they can. Essentially, we are offering half the normal price of the plans in the hurricane-affected areas in the interest of helping the rebuild effort. People from other parts of the country who order would have to pay full price.”

For more information on the house plans, see the Web site above or send an e-mail to info@newurbanguild.com.

Also planned for publication as a result of the Governor’s Commission Mississippi Renewal Forum is the architectural pattern book, “A Pattern Book for Gulf Coast Neighborhoods,” which will be available for free.

“It is great to have architects do houses, but the reality is builders design more houses than architects,” Somers said. “You could take that book and go to your builder and say, ‘This is the style house that I want.’ The style book looks at all the elements that can make up housing. For example, it can show if you do this type of window, the shutters should look like this. It lets people get higher level designs in their houses.”

The New Urban Guild is also working on another effort regarding manufactured homes. Up to now trailers have been banned from many communities or parts of communities.

“Our proposition to manufacturers is to come in and build based on high-quality architectural plans so what you produce is not anything that resembles a trailer,” Mouzon said. “If you build good quality houses that happen to be narrow so they can be transported on the interstate, we will code you into places you have never gone before because you aren’t doing something that is known as a trailer and is objectionable.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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