Image: Actor Brad Pitt in New Orleans
Lee Celano  /  Reuters
Actor Brad Pitt, left, speaks as neighborhood activist Pam Dashiell and architect Thom Mayne look on during a press briefing about the "Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans." Pitt is a juror in the competition in which architects are designing environmentally friendly houses in the Lower Ninth Ward.
updated 7/15/2006 2:28:56 PM ET 2006-07-15T18:28:56

After two days of getting his first up-close look at post-Katrina New Orleans, Brad Pitt said Friday he was shocked at the devastation that remains almost a year later.

“I was not prepared,” the actor said, describing how he drove for miles and saw street after street of devastation.

Pitt was in New Orleans to give an update on a project he’s promoting — a competition to choose ecologically sound designs for rebuilding neighborhoods.

“There’s a big opportunity here,” he said, to rebuild the city using energy-efficient building materials and appliances that would improve quality of life, particularly in low-income communities.

Global Green USA, a national environmental organization, is working with Pitt on the design project. Pitt heads a jury of architects, city residents and others who decided Friday on the top five environmentally friendly designs out of more than 100 entries. The designs were submitted by individuals and architect firms.

He admits the new designs, which use energy-saving materials such as metal roofing and recycled textiles, might not reflect the historic architecture often found in New Orleans. But, he said, it’s time to look to the future.

“It’s impossible to replicate the past,” Pitt said. “The original designs are really good. They’re really efficient.” But, he added, “we can do better.”

Design project finalists are to be announced Monday.

Global Green USA is also providing technical assistance in green standards for 10,000 buildings in New Orleans. It opened a resource center in the city last month to give residents free design advice and information about environmentally friendly building products and strategies.

Pitt was not asked about his girlfriend or their three children. Personal questions were put off limits by a publicist for Global Green who said the news conference would be ended if such questions were asked.

“It wouldn’t have ended it. It just wouldn’t have been a question that we would have answered,” Global Green communications director Ruben Aronin said later.

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Video: Sneak peek: Brad Pitt on building green

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