| The humidity of New Orleans means the grass and weeds grow fast. Signs advertise lawn care for abandoned plots.|
Five years on from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the worst affected area - the Lower 9th Ward - is still struggling to thrive. The barge which broke loose of its moorings that fateful day demolished the district's levee taking people's lives and homes with it. The area has failed to fully recover. The neighbourhood roads are partly overgrown with weeds and reek of abandonment.
Yet an odd sight meets visitors to the area. Juxtaposed with these vacant lots are some of the most hi-tech eco houses in America. These storm-proof, sustainable homes are winners of the platinum award for green design. They're the result of the intervention of actor Brad Pitt, who was so moved by the devastation that he formed the charity 'Make It Right'.
He appealed for help from international architects to design safer houses. They responded - mostly pro bono - and the result is contemporary dwellings which seem plucked straight from the pages of the glossiest archtiecture magazines. Yet while tourist buses roam the streets, the district has had less success in attracting former residents back to the neighbourhood.
The scale of destruction, the death of loved ones, the threat of another disaster: these have all prevented people from returning. Those who do, are no doubt encouraged by the cutting-edge design of the re-builds and reassured by their technological advances as safeguards against another Katrina hurting them again.
The Lower 9th Ward is now an incongruous mix of the most modern, contemporary architecture and sad neglect. The struggle to encourage former residents to return is sweetened by the extraordinary architecture, but winning the hearts and minds of these traumatized residents is still proving to be a long-term project.
One of many overgrown properties left and abandoned and engulfed in creepers.
|Dilapidated houses fall rapidly into decay without regular maintenance. |
They stand in stark contrast to the lovingly restored homes next door.
|Some houses are so overgrown with neglect they are almost completely swamped by weeds.|
Signs advertising gardening services are common.
|Local resident Jeanette Williams stands in the doorway of her home which has been repeatedly vandalized since the floods.|
|9th ward resident Jeanette Williams inside her home, which has been newly decorated but since vandalized and her heating system ripped from its cupboard.|
|Vandals repeatedly attack JW's newly restored home to get to the copper wiring, which is then sold on the black market.|
|Michael, from a Christian volunteer group, Faith Bible Church in Sliddell, Louisiana, surveys the work still to be done.|
|Breaking point of the Levee. As Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the waters rose rapidly,|
causing a barge to break free of its moorings destroying thousands of homes in its path.
|Memories to those who lost their lives in the Lower 9th Ward are still tangible. Memorials mark the corners of many streets.|
|For the authorities, acquiring the rights to the land in order to build is another problem.|
Many fled to Texas to seek work and safety elsewhere,
but records of ownership are complicated and some people have never returned, nor are likely to.
|One of a 150 sustainable, affordable, storm-resistant homes built for residents who lost their properties to hurricane Katrina in 2005.|