Lessons

We’ve learned a number of lessons over the past dozen years of working with the Katrina Cottages, including the following:

Name

Katrina-Cottages-logo-720

A woman in Louisiana asked me several years after the storm “why did you give the cottages such a horrible name?” It took me completely by surprise, because it was the first negative comment I had ever heard about the name. But then I remembered how Southerners tend to be more polite than most, and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so it began to make sense as she explained. “Katrina Cottage means The End of Life as I Knew It Cottage,” the “Losing Everything I Ever Owned Cottage,” and the “Day My World Went Dark Cottage.” So “Katrina Cottage” used anywhere else in the world not affected by Katrina probably works just fine. But be very careful about naming disaster recovery housing after the disaster itself.

Manufacturing's Weakest Link

KC-before

I’ve always regretted not having better images of these,
but in any case, here’s the original Katrina Cottage design.

Just after the Mississippi Renewal Forum, we gave a set of Katrina Cottage drawings to a housing manufacturer. They came back to us a few days later, really proud of what they were about to show us. They said “isn’t it beautiful? It’s exactly what you wanted!” Unfortunately, no two lines were in the same place. The people doing the shop drawings were essentially blind, because they could not see the difference. They had taken our design (one by Gary Justiss) as a cartoon, and had drawn their shop drawings using all their standard trailer components, resulting in something hideous. 

KC-after

Here’s the manufacturer’s shop drawing.

To get the shop drawings right, the best thing to do is to take the time to sit down with the shop drawing people as they’re doing the drawings, making the hundreds or thousands of little corrections with them until they get it right. Otherwise, the best you’ll ever get is a decorated trailer. I would also highly recommend giving them CAD drawings of designs, with instructions to use those as their base drawings, and not to redraw from scratch. Otherwise, they’re likely to draw a trailer that many municipalities will reject instead of a cottage with charm.

~Steve Mouzon

© New Urban Guild 2017