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


A Semester's Journey

This semester was a great experience for all of us. The trip to Haiti, of course, was an immense eye opener.  We were able to see, for ourselves, the Haitian culture, beautiful landscape, and the effects of natural disaster. The class challenged us in new ways, brought us together as classmates and teams, and allowed us to have a different sense of pride in our work.  


The challenges presented were unlike anything in previous studios. We had a very limited material palette to work with, but we strived to use materials in new and innovative ways, such as wicker doors and iron kitchen cabinet doors.  Another challenge we worked hard to overcome was the provision of ventilation and lighting.  To minimize the usage of electricity, we established designs that would allow for passive cross ventilation and, in some areas, stack ventilation.  In addition, the strategic placement of windows, made of vent block and wicker, gives the house passive lighting.


Normally our studio projects are completed individually.  This was probably everyone’s first experience working in a group setting.  It was challenging at times, agreeing and dividing up the work evenly, but it gave us a sense of what it will be like to work in a firm.  It also seemed to bring us closer together, working with Interior Design students and Graduate students.


The end result, we feel, gives us a different sense of pride than our normal final projects.  This one is a gift to other people to enrich the lives of those who need it most.  We also feel accomplished, designing a house that will suit Haiti very well, as far as function and aesthetics.  To see the houses built and possibly meet those living in them would give a sense of accomplishment like no other.


Expatriate Family House



1,400 square feet

3 bedroom

2 full bath


Design Goals

- allow ventilation in all rooms

- give added ventilation in bathrooms

- design a glorified porch space for public gathering

- create a separation between the master bedroom and the two guest bedrooms

- connect the indoors and outdoors

 Due to the importance of social interaction in Haitian culture, a returning expatriate would want to come back to a home that will help enable them to fit in with the culture once again.

Because the porch is often the only space that visitors are invited to gather on, the porch has gained the status of an individual room in Haitian culture. In the expatriate house, the U-shaped courtyard becomes a glorified porch that allows plenty of space for guests to gather.

Hierarchy is given to the main living space with tall gabled trusses punctuating the interior of the space. Doors on either side of the living space open to the outdoors, connecting the interior living space with nature and adding a connection between the occupants inside with the occupants outside.

The master bedroom is separated from the other bedrooms to create a sense of privacy. Each bedroom is located on a corner of the house to ensure cross ventilation will cool the rooms throughout the day. The two restrooms extend outward on either side of the house in order to enhance ventilation within each bathroom.


Lastly, we added a few decorative touches that we felt would enhance the overall feel of a Haitian house and create more business for the locals in Haiti. Ironwork is used instead of cabinet doors in the kitchen. Woven wood is used on the exterior doors to create a translucent barrier that allows light to flow into the living room. Also, we have suggested that the wood trusses on the interior be colored so the vibrant color on the exterior is brought into the house.


Designing For Haiti

During this short time we spent designing a community for Fond-Des-Blancs, we soon discovered that this was no ordinary project we were undertaking. Design began to take a completely new meaning, as we were forced to consider the reality that these homes and this community would eventually be built and inhabited. We were influenced so greatly by the people of Haiti and Jean and Joy Thomas, and were truly stretched in order to yield the greatest possible design. Learning to design in a new culture has benefitted us tremendously, and it is our hope that it will have benefitted the people of Haiti just as much.


Home for an Expatriate Retiree



  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 full bath
  • carport
  • 1,650 sq. ft.
Driving concepts
  • openness (visual, ventilation and diffuse light)
  • multifunctioning (year round porch)
  • water collection






ll Resolution Images






Opportunity - Team LLBen

One word to summarize the haiti_utk experience would be “opportunity”. Over the past semester, we have been fortunate enough to be given so many opportunities, seen and unseen. We were able to travel to Haiti and experience a new culture. Our eyers were open to things that they were blind to before. We were given the opportunity to aid Jean Thomas in fulfilling his vision for the community that he desires to build. We experienced a practical form of design that will prepare us for our careers in the future. We also formed friendships that brought us closer together as a studio.

The experiences that we gained from these opportunities are priceless and have been very rewarding. It has been very enjoyable and really exciting to know that something we designed in college is actually going to get built. If ever I had a similar opportunity such as the haiti_utk experience, I could not pass it up.