The timing was horribly perfect. Archimania, a local architecture firm, was hitting a milestone, and Memphis Heritage Inc. and the Memphis chapter of the American Institute of Architects had just kicked off Architecture Month, a month-long celebration of contemporary buildings and local preservation efforts. Then Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast.
"Archimania was having its 10-year anniversary party, and the AIA was planning a party to close out Architecture Month, but it just didn't feel right to celebrate while part of the American South was under water," says Nora Boone, marketing manager at Archimania.
Instead, Archimania is hosting Party with a Purpose during Friday's South Main trolley tour to drum up funds for "Operation Home Delivery," a Habitat for Humanity project geared toward low-income housing.
AIA Memphis' executive director, Heather Baugus, says that while she saw an immediate call to action, Memphis architects weren't quite sure what they could do.
"Locally and nationally, we were immediately mobilized, trying to see how we could support [affected] architects and trying to find a way to appropriately organize an opportunity for people to give to rebuilding efforts," Baugus says.
When Boone suggested that Memphis Heritage and the AIA team up with Habitat for Humanity, local architects found focus.
Habitat for Humanity's "Operation Home Delivery" will help past Habitat beneficiaries get back on their feet, serve as a catalyst for other government and nonprofit building and recovery projects, and provide quick, low-cost shelters by implementing the "home in a box" concept -- a 1,100-square-foot structure framed offsite then shipped south to be erected in one of the devastated areas.
"Partnering with Habitat seemed like the perfect fit because they're dedicated to building homes and shelters," Boone says. "This focuses on the situation three, six, nine months down the road, when the story won't be so hot. We'll actually be in the community, working with people who need it the most.
"An actual 'build' for Habitat is an all-day thing, but streamlining the components with the home-in-a-box project is our best bet for getting families back in their homes," she says.
"While it would be great to have a $50,000 donor, for just $5 you can buy a box of nails. Every dollar will go toward buying materials, which will be assembled into homes by local Habitat chapters. As soon as they're finished, they'll be shipped down to the coast."
With DJ ScottOtt spinning the tunes, a caricaturist sketching partygoers, and local actors portraying Southern theater scenes, the "Operation Home Delivery" fund-raiser will both "celebrate and respect New Orleans tradition," Boone says.
"The South Main trolley tour is so nomadic. We want people to stop and have some drinks on us. Hopefully, they'll pull out their dancing shoes and their checkbooks."