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Katrina Furniture Project
New Orleans, Louisiana, 2006

The Katrina Furniture Project focuses on developing culturally sensitive, ecologically sustainable building prototypes that will help to guide the redevelopment process; as well as building the economic and social capacity of those neighborhoods in New Orleans that experienced severe pre-Katrina economic and social challenges through furniture making workshops.

These furniture making workshops will train community members in the craft of making furniture and, where necessary, in the fundamentals of operating these workshops safely and according to fundamental business models. The training will be led by faculty and students from participating universities and NGOs and coordinated with local arts institutions. The workshops are intended to be multi-purpose in nature and function as neighborhood-based places of work, sites of learning and community centers. Weekend workshops, for example, will help provide facilities for community members needing to rebuild their homes by providing tools and expertise. Organizational business plans, equipment purchases and marketing of Katrina Furniture Workshop products will be assisted by the business schools of participating universities, local banks, and Design Within Reach, the nation’s largest catalog furniture company.

This initiative will be supported by a collaboration between students, and faculty from 5 universities: UT’s School of Architecture (SoA), Tulane’s College of Architecture, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena,CA, Penn State’s Hamer Center and the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Design, and volunteers, and design fellows from 5 NGOs (Enterprise Institute, Public Architecture, the Center for the Living City, Mercy Corps and Design Corps), local institutions (the Ashé Cultural Center or ACC), and several businesses in and outside New Orleans (Design Within Reach and Liberty Bank). These collaborators, under the leadership of the UT SoA, will take on the reconstruction of buildings donated by each community as service learning projects. These reconstructions will help to build capacity of participating neighborhoods and students, as well as establish trust and channels of communication for the furniture making workshops, which will follow.