Haiti rises from the ashes

Monday 17 Jan 2011

One year on from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti, WAN reviews the building progress of dedicated aid organisations

This Wednesday 12th January the world stopped to remember the devastating natural disaster that took place in Haiti one year previously. Hitting 25km west of the capital Port-au-Prince, an earthquake measuring a terrifying 7.0 magnitude shook the local community to its core. Over the following two weeks, a minimum of 52 aftershocks were recorded measuring 4.5 magnitude or above, further damaging the already devastated population. Post-quake, the death toll reached 316,000 with an additional 300,000 injured and an estimated 1.8m Haitians out on the streets; their lifelong dwellings reduced to rubble, commercial enterprises split to the foundations and religious monuments damaged beyond repair.

Over the past year, numerous international aid organisations have landed on Haitian shores with the offer of temporary shelters, comprehensive healthcare, skill training and continuing psychological support. Long-standing charity organisation CARE International has been operating in Haiti since 1954 and dramatically upped its level of community support following the 2010 catastrophe.

CARE is currently undertaking a wide-scale relief operation which encourages local residents to assume responsibility for the construction of their own transitional dwellings. Using a model which has proven to be fully effective during aid efforts elsewhere in the world, transitional shelters are partly pre-fabricated by local Haitian tradesmen and constructed onsite by family units, overseen by skilled carpenters, technicians and engineers. CARE are careful to stipulate that the shelters themselves are ‘transitional, not temporary’, with the ability to be upgraded, extended, reused, relocated and recycled into permanent housing further down the line.

Kate Crawford is an active member of CARE in Haiti, working onsite as a humanitarian shelter field advisor for many months and returning to her native UK this December. She took a few moments to talk to WAN about her experiences in the country and the future of CARE’s involvement on the project.

Whilst CARE International continues to concentrate on educating local residents with construction skills, young not-for-profit organisation Architecture for Health In Vulnerable Environments (ARCHIVE) has striven to provide effective building designs that combat the escalating threat of tuberculosis in Haiti. Working in collaboration with Foundation Esther Boucicault Stanislas (FEBS) – an organisation which actively assists individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti with quality healthcare and psychological support, and by challenging the stigma still attached to the destructive virus – ARCHIVE are developing inexpensive, easily replicable housing for members of the community living with HIV/AIDS.

On the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, ARCHIVE announced the winners of Kay e Sante nan Ayiti - a global competition to design innovative affordable shelters which limit the transmission of tuberculosis. An interdisciplinary committee judged 147 entries from 5 continents on the basis of replicability, incorporation of local building materials and techniques, prioritisation of health challenges, sustainable design, and adherence to budget, climatic and seismic compatibility.

The winning designs are as follows:

First place – Breathe House
Designed by a UK and American interdisciplinary team including architects, a medical doctor, engineers and architectural students, ‘Breathe House’ incorporates an abundance of natural light and ventilation, independent renewable energy systems and easy access to clean water. The design encourages the utilisation of local tradesmen and techniques with locally-sourced materials and construction methods implemented throughout; the winning team also presented a ‘user’s guide’ to the construction of the health- and environment-conscious design.

Second place – Maison Canopy
On a rather different tack, ‘Maison Canopy’ by two US architects attempts to create a ‘sanctuary to heal the body and spirit’ with an open-plan interior to encourage the formation of relationships between residents. All cooking and communal areas are separated, maximising cross ventilation, with rainwater harvesting and sanitation and waste management technologies easily managed and adapted to the needs of the inhabitants. The integration of insect screens into the external design clearly acknowledges the prevalence of vector-borne diseases.

Third place – Shutter Dwelling
Composed by Italian architects and engineers with a physician and immunologist, internal space within third placed winner ‘Shutter Dwelling’ divides the sleeping facilities with attached bathrooms from the rest of the residence to limit the mixture of infected and clean airflows. Again, the design incorporates elements of local tradition and construction techniques, such as concrete block walling and timber framing/cladding.

Honourable Mention – Bois l’Etat – The Architecture and Ecology of Healing
‘Bois l’Etat’ was applauded as ‘an elegant evolution of familiar, simple housing typologies’ by the judges, designed by a collaborative American team including architects, public health specialists, sustainability consultants, a horticulturalist, a structural engineer and a medical doctor. This diverse team created a design which aims to inject the expense of construction and development back into the local economy. Again utilising local tradesmen and materials, Bois l’Etat also integrates rainwater harvesting, composting toilets and the efficient use of energy and resources.

Merit Award – Cycle House
Generated by a team of architects and engineers from the Dominican Republic, ‘Cycle House’ is defined by the spatial positioning of open and closed internal areas lined with blinds and sliding screen doors. External landscaping enables workers to grow medicinal herbs to help tend patients with the preparation of tisanes and aromatherapy. Stationary bicycles in the ‘Cycle House’ also generate electricity and are easily detached for use as local transportation.

Esther Boucicault, founder of FEBS, works closely with ARCHIVE. She explains: “In Haiti, people living with HIV/AIDS continue to be victims of severe stigma and discrimination. They are rejected by society and even their families. Many become homeless. This makes them even more susceptible to infectious diseases like tuberculosis, which is already a serious problem amongst our members. In a society where disease is so much a sign of poverty and where support is so lacking, ARCHIVE's housing project will improve our members' living conditions and provide them with a crucial base from which they can begin to rebuild healthier lives.”

The construction by CARE International is ongoing with the intention to provide local residents with the necessary skills to support themselves in the long term. The winning entries of the Kay e Sante nan Ayiti competition run by ARCHIVE will be displayed in a travelling exhibition this coming spring with construction of the pilot houses due to commence on 1st March. These are just some of the inspirational regeneration schemes currently taking place in Haiti, where international aid organisations are tirelessly working with dedicated local residents to build a new future for victims of the 2010 earthquake.


Key Facts:


Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team