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Trojan Goat: A Self-Sufficent House (Winner Design & Livability Contes)
Trojan Goat: A Self-Sufficent House (Winner Design & Livability Contes)
John D. Quale
University of Virginia Press, 2005
72 pp., $19.00

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Eric O. Jacobsen

Model Home

The story behind a "Solar Decathlon" winner.

Last January at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, amid the granite countertops, palatial bathroom suites, and other requisite components of the fully equipped American life, a 300-square-foot home stole the show. "The Katrina Cottage," as it is affectionately known, is a modest, traditionally styled home with a generous front porch and a distinctly Southern feel. It was designed by Marriane Cusato as an alternative to the fema trailers that are routinely used to offer temporary housing to disaster victims. Cusato had designed the structure in response to what a number of displaced residents of hurricane-torn towns said they wanted in a home. Although it is getting rave reviews from native Mississippians and is priced competitively with the fema trailer, the Katrina Cottage has been rejected as part of the disaster relief package because of a technicality in fema rules which allows only the provision of temporary housing to victims. Some have suggested that the real issue is whether we are comfortable offering disaster relief that doesn't look sufficiently grim. This story speaks volumes about our instinct to protect and repair the American Dream in response to tragedy, as well as the often ironic role the government can play in that process.

Six years earlier, the U.S. Energy Department announced a "Solar Decathlon" to see which school of architecture could design the most efficient and livable solar-powered house. The tragedy for which this competition would ultimately provide some kind of response came when two 747s toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Although the Energy Department could not have foreseen such a turn of events, this particular crisis invested the competition with new meaning. In her introduction to Trojan Goat: A Self Sufficient House, Karen Van Lengen, dean of the University of Virginia's School of Architecture, makes the claim that after 9/11, "many Americans recognized the need to become more self-sufficient and visionary ...

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