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Brad Pitt, bungalow aficionado & rebuilder of New Orleans

Blackerhousebookcover Many of you probably know Thomas Heinz, Randell Mackinson & Brad Pitt's book on the Blacker House and its restoration. It's an interesting read, and the photographs are surprisingly good. Certainly, Pitt's been one of the more visible old-house aficionados in California, buying up old LA-area Craftsman homes and restoring them when he has the time.

The Los Angeles Times has an article on Pitt's continued interest in architecture - both traditional and contemporary - and his founding of the Make It Right foundation, which aims to completely rebuild New Orleans' extensively damaged Lower Ninth Ward, keeping the neighborhood's character intact and rebuilding homes specifically for their residents. He's said that this effort is different from other proposals specifically because it doesn't exist to make developers rich and homogenize an entire area, but rather rebuild for the benefit of those who live there. Let's hope it works out. Tina Daunt has the full story in her Cause Celebre column of December 5 - read the whole thing there.

NEW ORLEANS – IN Hollywood, causes tend to divide into the popular and the deeply personal. You usually can recognize the difference because the former come from the pages of next month's glossy magazines and the latter right from the heart. …

Over the years, Pitt has bought old California Craftsman houses and restored them, gathering every bit of literature he could find on the Arts and Crafts movement and its most famous local architects, Charles and Henry Greene. The actor became so interested in their iconic homes that he teamed up with scholar and restoration expert Randell L. Makinson to produce the most extensive book to date on the restoration of Greene & Greene's Blacker House, which had been stripped and abandoned. (Pitt provided black and white photos as a visual essay on the Pasadena home's rebirth.)

Pitt has spent time with Frank Gehry at his studio, tinkering with diagrams and models. And last winter, for his birthday, girlfriend  Angelina Jolie gave him a special gift: a private tour of Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece that spans  Bear Run, a creek that flows through woods about 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

So it's only fitting that Pitt's deep regard for the built environment and his concern for housing as a social cause have come together in his most ambitious project to date – "Make It Right" which aspires to nothing less than the reconstruction of New Orleans' storm-ravaged Lower 9th Ward.

Pitt, along with residents of the area, Democratic fundraiser and movie producer Steve Bing, and a team of world-renowned architects launched a national fundraising campaign this week to help the city recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Pitt and Bing have already pledged to kick in $5 million each toward project development and construction. (Another difference between popular and heartfelt causes is their shelf life. Ruined New Orleans may not be an issue in the current presidential campaign, but neither Pitt -- who has a residence in New Orleans' French Quarter – nor Bing has been able to forget that so much of a major American city still lays in ruins.)

"The plan is to start with 150 homes," Pitt told a gathering of reporters and residents on Monday. "But there's no reason why we can't do a thousand homes, or 10,000 ...We can make this happen, but we all need to join together to do this."