Patty’s Dedication

What I said, more or less. Pictures to follow in a day or two.

Hi everyone, I’m Vincent from the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. My job today is to introduce you to Patty Broussard’s house and share just a few observations about the experience and meaning of building it. I’ve been working on this house since I started here in September, alongside Jason Pressgrove, who’s been working on it since the beginning of summer, and who has carried the project forward every step along the way.

This house is remarkable in a number of ways; it’s set apart by its design, and its environmental measures, and its height up in the trees, but more than anything else it’s remarkable because of the number of different people who have put their love and skill into this house. The house began with a group of architecture students from all over the country, brought together by Penn State University and by Design Corps to come down and work with Patty to design something that’s right for her. And so, working with Jason and David and Brandon and Brian from the Coordination Center they put in a summer of intense design and construction work that got the house up off the ground.

However, the studio ended in August. Since then, the scale of the help we’ve had is such that I can’t name every group that has worked with us, but is has been amazing to me how every time we needed assistance, the right assistance came. When we needed fearless people to go up and hammer nails from scaffolding twenty, twenty-five feet up in the air, we got them, and if they didn’t start out fearless, they overcame that for us. When we needed some creative minds to work out those special window boxes, we got Sergio Palleroni and his architecture studio from the University of Texas. When we needed a volunteer who also happened to be a skilled carpenter, or a crew of the most dedicated painters you’ve ever seen, those people showed up. When we were stuck on how to build the right railing, and how to finish the bathroom, two architects from California, Eric and Fran, showed up in their VW van and stayed over twice as long as they’d intended to help us build the railing, as well as a beautiful broken tile mosaic and much more. When we needed custom cabinets, Jason, and Jackie, one of our repeat volunteers, were on the job. When we needed flooring installed, and ideas for the landscape, once again, Sergio and another group of students came to the rescue. We needed landscapers, and we got this hard working and enthusiastic group from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

I list all these people because the most important thing we do here is, we create ownership, and we create investment. And I don’t mean this in the financial or legal sense. Each of these people has put part of themselves into the house. They say, I’m not building any old railing, I’m going to make this my railing. So I hope Patty doesn’t mind sharing the house a little bit with each of our hearts. And it’s inspiring to see it become her house and garden again after a hurricane tried to take them away. I have never seen someone with such a close knowledge of her garden, and her plants, and the landscape as Patty has. Each tree and object has a story, and is a chapter in a larger story, and I think the house has become a part of that story too.

And she’s going to keep telling that story. Patty is very much an advocate for us now. Maybe not an advocate for doing it this way all over again. But I’ll give you an example: about two weeks from now, she’s been kind enough to agree to go speak about her house at a conference at Harvard, Structures for Inclusion, for architects and builders working in communities like this one. And more than that, with a house this unique, she’ll be answering people’s questions forever. The other day she was explaining to Mississippi Power about LEED, that’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the green accreditation process this house is going through. And that’s what this house is, it’s a teaching tool. It’s taught everyone new ways of doing things, it’s taught us a couple ways of not doing things. But overall, and I’m coming back to what it means to me, it’s been an extremely rewarding process that’s not over yet. We’re so happy that Patty will be able to move in. I’d like to thank everyone who has put their heart into this project and more than anything else I’d like to thank Patty for having the biggest heart of all and putting up with all of us and working with us and loving Biloxi enough to begin bringing this neighborhood back.

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