2011 haiti_utk publication

One to Another

A Downloadable Publication from the 2011 Haiti UTK Studio


WBIR Report of the Haiti Studio

Introduction haiti_utk

Welcome to the Haiti UTK site! The work on these pages reflects student engagement in design for both a school and housing for the community of Fonds des Bloncs, Haiti in collaboration with the Haiti Christian Development Fund. The project was initiated in the early fall of 2010 and subsequently a class of 19 students, in the spring of 2011, was given the responsibility of deisgning a secondary school. The school is under constuction. A new group of students is now hard at work developing new housing in Fonds des Blancs. The work of these students can be seen in the pages of this blog. Students of the class will be traveling to Haiti Februay 2-6 to collect addiional data. It is anticipated that this second phase of the project will be completed in late April with construction starting summer 2012. The work of the students is being guided by three primary faculty, John McRae, David Matthews, and Chris King, a local practictioner. The students during their exploration will engage a wide range of issues including context, culture, resources, climate and other outside factors not common to their expereince. 

Students: Cassidy Barnett, Aaron Brown, Sarah Heimermann, Mitzi Coker, Emily Corgan, Ben Cross, Peter Duke, Emily Fike, Sam Funari, Lauren Heile, Kendra McHaney, Lauren Metts, Morgan Oiler, Bernice Paez, Forrest Reynolds, Emily Ryan, James Sawyer, Zachary Smith, Robert Thew, Cory Wikerson Faculty: John McRae, Chris King, David Matthews

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Special Thanks!

The Haiti Studio for spring 2012 is being supported by HaitiServe foundation based in Knoxville Tennessee, that is focused on outreach and engagement in improving conditions in Haiti. 

haiti_utk public blog index


Reflecting on a Life Changing Experience

When we began this studio at the beginning of the semester we knew the gist of what we were doing. We were going to be designing a community in Haiti. This seemed like a fun opportunity for us and we were all really excited to be working on it together. However, at that time we did not realize how much this semester would change us as both designers and people.


This studio has given us so much insight into the professional world of architecture and what all it takes to design a project that will actually be built. We have learned how to work as a team and create products that have helped us grow and evolve as designers. We will always be grateful to have had this opportunity while we were still in school and be able to use these experiences for future endeavors.

However, with professional practice aside, the most valuable thing we had the opportunity to do this semester is to help people that are truly in need. We have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Haiti and see people that live so much differently than ourselves and that are truly happy doing it. Being able to put ourselves out there, outside of our comfort zone, and to meet people that live so differently has impacted us the most. We have seen a way a life that is simple and straightforward and then compared this to our own lives. We have never had this opportunity before and the impact this comparison is both humbling and life changing. 

We truly appreciate the opportunity we have been given and we will always remember the experiences we have had throughout the course of this project. Whether it is professional or personal, I think we can all way that we have benefited from this experiences in ways that we will never be able to truly explain, from the bottom of our hearts. 


Caleb House_Team 04


The Caleb Program exists in Haiti as a young adult leadership development program. This would be for adults that are wishing to build their communities and improve the quality of life in those communities. The home for the young adults in this program has thus been dubbed the "Caleb House." This house would be a roommate situation home and would house its occupants for approximately two years. 


Our concept for this home was to have a large central space that would allow maximum communication between its occupants. We found this extremely important because these young adults would more than likely be away from their families for a long period of time. We wanted to give them the opportunity to create solid bonds with their roommates and give them a home away from home. However, we wanted to give their living quarters a more intimate feel and as much individual space as possible so they are also able to have time to themselves. 



  • 4 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • kitchen
  • living room
  • diningroom
  • large porch


floor plan and reflected ceiling plan


We let the program and concept of our project dictate the form of the house as we saw appropriate. We have two main zones: public and private. The public space is central to the plan and on either side of this we have the bedroom areas. We decided to shift this central area away from the flanking masses so as to give the space a sense of hierarchy as well as its more functional purpose to allow for a large front porch. Over the bedroom areas we chose to use a flat concrete roof that resulted in lower ceilings and a more intimate space. For the common space, we chose to use a sawtooth roof. This, again, gave the space a sense of hierarchy. It also allowed for optimal ventilation and indirect sunlight. Another amenity that in vital in this design for ventilation is our front door system. This system consists of a series of panels that allow the entire entrance of the home to open. Due to the overhang of the sawtooth roof, we have managed to avoid direct sunlight into the living areas.

All in all, we feel that we have achieved what were attempting to accomplish with our original concept. We hope this home will be built and will succeed in making its occupants feel at home while training to help their communities as young leaders.


Reflecting on the Haiti experience

Looking back over the semester-long project, we realize what a great experience it has been! We knew from the beginning that we would be stepping outside of our normal realm of thought into another culture, another land, and another world. 

Our visit to Haiti was invaluable. It played a key element in understanding the culture and life of Haitian people. Surveying the site, visiting market, and interacting with community members gave us a more clear understanding of who we were designing for. Our greatest challenge was proposing schematic design to Joy and Jean Thomas before having been to Haiti to see the site first hand. None-the-less, we worked hard to create a holistic design and presented it to them in Haiti. Having them as a constant contact for the project was extremely helpful in our design process.

We felt humbled after our visit to Fond-des-Blancs and were even more eager to begin designing for the Haitian people. We wanted to connect with their thoughts, their fears, and use that to drive our design.  

One of the best parts about this project was the diversity in scale. We started off designing the entire site, including public gathering spaces, roadways, walk ways, etc. Once a site plan was finally worked out, we began designing individual houses. This led us to the smallest of details, including millwork drawings and material finishes. This range of scales allowed us to think on multiple levels of design. We had previously not thought holistically about site design.

Overall, the "Urban Alternative" Haiti experience was priceless to our education. It challenged us to immerse ourselves in a very unfamiliar culture and design for what they would see as attractive and valuable. As much of a challenge as it was, it was also a blessing. While we still have many years to continue learning design, this experience has aided in our education and overall wellbeing to become better designers and better people.


Haiti_UTK: A Reflection of the Semester

This semester has been one full of growth and learning. This course has stretched us as students and designers and given us a better understanding of the various cultures around us. Working in groups with students from both interior design and architecture has forced us to learn to speak the same language. We have learned to listen to each other and respect each other's design abilities. 


Traveling to Haiti added a level of richness to our semester and projects. The ability to survey the site in person and interact with the community gave us a sense of what would be appropriate for the development. It would have been much more difficult to design a successful proposal without having seen the site for ourselves. Also, the ability to work closely with Jean and Joy Thomas was a blessing. They were able to cast a vision for us to follow. Our skype interviews and conversations ensured that we stayed on track with both the overall site development and individual house design. 


This studio has been an incredible opportunity that is rare in the educational environment. Not only did we learn about site development and house design, but we will have the chance to see our houses being built over the next several years. Our success as a class would not have been possible with the help of our professors John McRae, Chris King, and David Matthews. They put in countless hours of critique and structural explanations, for which we are very grateful. 


Patriate Family House - Team 6

Our first house is designed to fit a typical family. Knowing that the use of porch space is essential to daily life in Haiti, we designed our house with sliding doors that open up. This allows the indoor living space to become totally connected with the outdoor environment. 

When designing our floor plan, we wanted the progression of the house to move from public space to private. From the front porch, residents move into a large open living space that contains the kitchen, dining, and living rooms. The back of the house contains 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. This gives the family a more intimate private space that celebrates the desire for shadow and a respite from the sun. 

Knowing that rainwater collection would be a valuable addition to our house, we studied several roof forms before deciding on a butterfly roof. This form allows water to drain to the valley in the middle of the roof. The valley has a slight slope in it to encourage the water to run off the roof and into a cistern located on the side of the house. The use of a butterfly roof allowed us to not only provide the house with rainwater collection, but increases the opportunity for ventilation throughout the house. Screens are located at the top to promote air circulation to cool down the interiors. 

 Click on the link below to view our final construction document set.

Construction Documents