March 16, 2006
In her effort to provide an alternative
to the ubiquitous FEMA trailers that were dispersed after
Hurricane Katrina, a New York-based architect has developed
a new model for affordable housing. It's name: the Katrina
"My goal is to take back the word
'affordable,'" says Marianne Cusato, principal of Marianne
Cusato Associates. Her design for the cottage, first unveiled
at the Mississippi Renewal Forum last fall, and showcased
at the International Builders' Show in Orlando in January,
has become a symbol of hope for thousands of Gulf Coast residents
whose homes were destroyed.
Cusato's traditional-style cottage is
a 300-square-foot structure that can be constructed faster
than a FEMA trailer for less than $35,000 (FEMA trailers cost
an estimated $60,000 to $100,000 each). The houses are built
with fiber-cement siding and crimped metal roofs. They are
more attractive alternatives to the sterile FEMA trailers,
and can ultimately be incorporated into long-term plans as
guest houses or studios. Cusato's cottage is one of several
models that came out of the forum, but because it was actually
constructed, it became a tangible object that sparked much
Architect Andres Duany, who helped lead
the Mississippi forum, originally called for a possible alternative
to FEMA trailers. Whether the cottages will become a reality
depends on the federal government's support. Mississippi Governor
Haley Barbour has testified before Congress on the structures'
behalf. "This product has to be the alternative for Louisiana
and Mississippi, or trailer parks will be the norm,"
says Don Broussard, an Atlanta architect.
At a recent Louisiana Recovery Authority
charrette in Arabi, La., a team of architects (many had taken
part in the Mississippi forum) developed a distinctly Louisiana-style
cottage model that is about twice the size of Cusato's version.
That cottage team is now developing model parks in Mississippi
and Louisiana that will feature 17 Katrina Cottage designs
and a builders' square where manufacturers of cottage components
can display their wares.
Meanwhile, the worldwide construction
industry seems to have taken note of the cottages. Cusato
recently received a request for a prototype model to be built
in Ghana, Africa.