About a month ago, a reporter from a well-respected magazine, ARCHITECTURAL RECORD, visited the build site to write a story about URBANbuild 08. The students were thrilled for the attention, and excited to share their project with the larger architecture and design community. The magazine story itself was glowing, but imagine how disheartened the students felt when a bunch of “armchair architects” wrote disparaging comments about the new house, following the article. Sprinkled among several positive letters of support were shocking phrases from anonymous readers, emboldened by the free-for-all Internet but too cowardly to sign their real names.

The main complaint – one that has been voiced much more constructively by a few of the neighbors – centers on the highly modern URBANbuild style. An informed dialogue might have included reasonable questions like: Are the Tulane houses an appropriate build choice for this neighborhood, where traditional model homes are close to the hearts of longtime residents? How might they contribute to a new vision for the neighborhood, and for New Orleans? What works about this design, and what can be improved for future prototypes? How can we be inspired by the traditional architectural styles of New Orleans, yet at the same time express our new times, new technology, and new attention to climate changes in a bold new architecture?

As it was, a few responses were so irresponsible that even Casey, the ever-grinning morale booster, was left with a broken spirit. Right after that, her wallet was stolen from her car a block away from the site. We’re seriously beginning to wonder if she’ll come back to work tomorrow.

Rachel Clift