Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mississippi. Temporary vs. Permanent

One of the interesting components about the Katrina Cottages is the questions it raises about temporary vs. permanent housing. Of course, the original FEMA trailer and mobile homes that were provided were certainly seen only as temporary housing. I don’t need to go into detail about how poorly these were planned and built. Not only were many people forced out the trailers because of toxic formaldehyde issues, there was no plan at all with what to do with them AFTER people got back into permanent housing. In fact, they are now selling most of them for scrap.

And while the Katrina Cottage didn’t actually look like a trailer, its scale was such that it was seen as something temporary. And the house was actually mounted on a trailer. The plan was for these to serve as temporary housing to be put on site while people rebuilt their houses. There was no real long term plan for it. Most of the Cottages were produced in Mississippi through their receipt of a $270 million from the Department of Homeland Security Alternative Housing Pilot Program. This particular program, under the direction the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has produced about 3000 “Mississipp Cottages” (not be confused with Louisiana Cottages) that served a very useful purpose. There were supposed to be three models produced:
Park Model: 387 SF one bedroom
Mississippi Cottage: 728 SF one bedroom and 840 SF two bedroom
Eco-Cottage: A variation that has more focus on green and energy efficient materials.

There are now eight Park Models at Cottage Square. In order to prove their viability as permanent housing, they have been removed from the original chasis and dropped onto permanent foundations. But walking into these, one feels like you are entering a miniaturized mobile home. The linoleum floor bounces, the kitchen has to low quality fake cabinets, and the furniture arrangement feels awkward. Additionally, the space just feels different. It is a much harsher space than the original Katrina Cottage, which was architect designed. This product had been streamlined through a factory to be mass produced. It felt like it had lost its soul. To get a house done right at that scale, the skills of an architect are desperately needed to make the size and quality of space work. Using the traditional streamlined systems that focus purely on mass production will only lessen its quality.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Mississippi Cottages are awaiting a yet to be determined fate a local staging yard. It is quite a scene.

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