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


Young Professional Ex-Pat Housing _ Team02

Our intent was to design a modest house for a returning young professional. We wanted to keep the house relatively small in size (approximately 900 sf) as not to overwhelm the landscape or the existing community. We also wanted the house to be flexible enough to inhabit any of the lots designated on the site. The porch, approximately 300 SF, serves as a gathering space for inhabiters and visitors. Only the slab and columns (and possible native shrubbery) denote the given porch space, which is meant to be welcoming and inviting for guests and neighbors.


Use a minimal amount of materials

Use as many locally available materials as possible

Provide a design that would be easy to construct by local contractors and craftsman

Provide ample ventilation through generous use of vent block and open truss systems



~900 SF

2 bedrooms

1 bathroom


There is one main load-bearing wall, into which all the trusses tie. Many of the trusses fall on partition walls within the house. A set of louvres was designed above the load-bearing wall to let in maximum light (especially in the hallway) but minimal to no rain. The floor plan was designed to have an open kitchen/living room/dining room, separate from the private spaces (bedrooms and bathroom). The kitchen was designed to have ample storage, with places designed for locally available or imported appliances. 


Slab- site-cast concrete

Walls- locally crafted concrete block

Windows- locally-crafted vent block

Trusses- wood

Roof- locally available tin or metal

Finish- stucco


Studio Work: Caleb House_Team 05

The Caleb House provides housing for men with aspiring leadership roles within their community.  As such, a group of men live communally together while their education continues.  Like the teachers’ house, the Caleb house it is meant to provide housing for 6-8 men who will live as roommates.

                The planning studies conducted for communal men’s living expressed that an emphasis should be placed upon the learning/study space that was a requirement of the home’s program.  As such, our group determined that this space would be the central node from which the rest of the home would revolve.  The public space is separated from the private bedrooms and bathroom by both the learning space and a porch.  We recognized that these spaces work exceptionally well as transition spaces in our planning studies.

                The roofs shed the water to the periphery of the home where they can be gathered into holding tanks for use in irrigation.  The whole house gathers in the center which lends itself to the idea that the core of the home is the most used and important space.  Indeed this study space is emphasized by additionally heightened ceiling and a peripheral ring of vent block fenestration.



Studio Work: Teachers' House_Team 05

This year we were able to expand upon last year’s school design studio.  While the school remains under construction currently, we were charged with providing housing for the influx of teachers now tasked with living locally.  The teachers’ home was designed to accommodate six to eight teachers living as a set of roommates. 


                  After a series of planning studies our group came to the unexpected conclusion that the bathroom of all places would best work as the core of our building.  We knew this formal gesture would be a difficult sell, but after using it as the knuckle between the private bedrooms and the public kitchen, living room, and dining room, we determined it was the correct course of action.

                  The inwardly sloped roofs collect rainwater into an internal collection tank for use with the adjacent water wall within the bathroom.  The inwardly sloping roof also allows for large exterior walls to admit maximum light and ventilation.  The space created in the public core is open but still comfy because the dimensions remained tightly controlled to minimize expense of construction.  





Recollections: Haiti House Design_Team 05 

This semester’s studio assignment was one that everyone in our group will remember as being different and more rewarding than most.  It will be remembered for re-shaping our notion of the world.  It will be remembered for being real. 

                  In so many instances we are tasked with designing imaginary buildings on unobtainable sites using untested means of construction.   They certainly have their merits as they challenge us to expand our mental horizons, but they are also limited.  Cost is seldom an issue.  Rarely are we challenged with the builder’s dilemma that if we can draw it… they can build it.  Haiti is different.  These buildings will be built.

                  After being totally blown away by how far our preconceptions were off before traveling to Haiti, we set down to work designing appropriate homes for Haitian civilians.  Like most every studio project we minded local context and regional flavor, but unlike other projects, we found it disrespectful and incorrect to veer far from these precedents.  The building process in Haiti, we realized, was something the people were proud of… something they could control… something that should remain intact. 

                  Rather than trying to create an American design and give it to Haiti where it would surely be rejected and ignored, we attempted to design Haitian.  Instead of introducing disorder and chaos to a land riddled with such things, we emphasized rationality above all else.  Our designs were decidedly un-American.  Not in the sense that they hate America, but in the sense that they are strongly dislocated from their nation of their designers.



Haiti House Design 06 B - final blog post

The Haiti_utk experience has given us an extremely rare opportunity. Many times in architecture school projects do not live past final reviews. However, the housing project in Fond des Blancs will carry on as Jean Thomas continues to focus on the construction of the local community.

Haiti_utk has left its mark on the community in Haiti. With the E'xode Secondary School under construction and the proposal for the housing project. John McRae and Jean Thomas have worked together to not only to benefit Fond des Blancs, but also to everyone who has contributed to the work being done there.

Providing american amenities in a location such as Fond des Blancs has the difficulty of not implanting foreign ideas, complex design, and Amercian culture into a place that has not even met the basic needs of its people.


Our goal for this semester has been to make a positive impact without leaving the stamp "American knows best".


The truth is that we do know how to design, build, and manage more efficiently and effectively. Our mission is to provide the platform for Haitians to learn the trades and knowledge to elevation not only their quality of living, but also the qualities of construction, education, community, etc...



The Haitian House 06 B returns to the basics of Haitian design –ease of construction and economics. 


Approach the Haitian home design from a sound economical point of view

EASE OF CONSTRUCTION | simple design
BASIC MATERIALS | locally available
LABOR | locally available


Respect Haitian community and individualism

COMMUNITY | public and private areas
MATERIALS | familiar style within local community
LOCAL TRADES | no imports from international suppliers


Bridge the divide between Haitian needs and American amenities

EASE OF CONSTRUCTION | construction datum design
MATERIALS | roof truss and clearstory design
COMMUNITY | blending and gradient of space design