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

Entries in Community (8)


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.


Reflective Statement

The greatest humanitarian challenge we face today is that of providing shelter.   In the Fond Des Blanc design project, as architecture students, we were given the opportunity to design a housing community for the local residences.  When you take people of limited means and put them in well-designed homes, you change their lives by giving them stability, pride, and hope.  This positive affirmation carries out into the neighborhood and surrounding communities. 


Diary entry of Fond-des-Blancs

Dear Diary,

Today is February 2, and one of the coldest days I’ve experienced in New York this winter. As you know I am a civil engineer student studying at NYC University, and I plan to travel home to Fond des Blancs for our spring recess. I shall miss the city and its many amenities, but I look forward to the warm weather and the smiles of my family and people. Their strength and prosperity through these hard times after the earthquake have made me more determined to learn all I can in school, so I can return home and create stable homes for my people. Creating a functional community that will stand as the trademark for design is my true goal. So, I boarded the plane for home, I plan to study and sketch all of my experiences for my design. 

Dear Diary,

Today is February 3, and I have finally made it home and embraced all of the cultural transitions. The smell of charcoal burning fills the warm humid air. Seeing farm animals graze the lands is something that I have not missed living in New York.  But I have missed the great conversations of people gathering around the stream to wash their clothes. I do wish that my people had my stable systems of water and electricity, but this has never stopped them from conversing together at night. This is something I need to keep in mind for my community design. As the day sets I sit and watch the sun set behind the mountains, a warm glow fills the sky as the dark sky starts to set in. This is always the highlight of my day at home for time seems to slow down and the beauty of the country begins to show.

Dear Diary,

Today is February 4, and I have begun writing down things for my desired community in Fond des Blancs. I want to create a place that is organized, has amenities, and is catered to the culture of my people. I plan to make the pedestrian circulation priority and moving the car to the exterior. I also want to keep a lot of the natural trees for they create shade, food, and other gathering spaces. Making structural stable homes is very important for my people have feared living in concrete homes since the earthquake. With my education and connections with construction workers in Haiti, I feel I can make a community that everyone will enjoy and most of all feel safe in. 



Final Site Design Proposal

Final Site Plan

In designing a site proposal, our new team wanted to synthesize the strengths of our previous schemes. This amalgamation of concepts, drivers and priorities eventually yielded a site plan that would be practical, beautiful and functional. Above all, we wanted to design according to the human scale, ensuring a meaningful connection between the inhabitants of this development and the built environment. While many things drove our design, there were three concepts that impacted decisions more than others. First, to create a strong sense of community; second, to provide a sense of order that is easily understood and clearly recognizable; and third, to design universally, allowing all people to utilize every feature of the site.

Courtyard PerspectiveThe shared courtyard was the primary avenue with which community was emphasized. We believe that every community needs a tool to enhance social interaction, and that this interaction is necessary and beneficial for every resident. An elongated courtyard ensures a relationship to the pedestrian path that winds through the site, thus connecting the residents to others that may not live within their cluster of homes. By placing the main entrance to the home on the inside of the courtyard, social interaction is optimized and community is created.

 Order vs Organic

We recognized that in a nation that has just experienced tragedy, creating a sense of order would be paramount. Often times, the perception of order is equated with security and safety, so we sought to develop a clearly organized, rigidly executed site plan with one moment of break from that system. The streets (vehicular circulation) were forced to snap to a grid that established the footprint of our blocks, while the pedestrian path to the west of the homes was allowed to break that geometry and follow the natural topography of the land. This breaking of the system allowed for ultimate convenience while one moves through the site. The organic pedestrian path was not a matter of preference, but one of convenience and livability. We sought to create a development that catered to the everyday lives and activities of its residents, rather than to the chance visit by a passerby.

Pedestrian Bridge

In order to allow the development to be utilized by the maximum number of people, we decided that universal design would need to be decision driver. As mentioned earlier, the organic pedestrian pathway was a response to convenience and livability, because half of this development will be inhabited by Ex-patriots who are returning to Haiti to retire. This meant that minimal elevation change along walkways and paths was absolutely essential. The easiest and most inexpensive way to accomplish this was to allow the path to follow the natural topography of the land, creating the organic shape seen above. This ideology was even carried into the design of the footbridge that will span the stream that cuts the site in two. It connects the two points on site that have the least elevation change, allowing for ease of access and continual usage. In addition, the elevated bridge allows for phenomenal views and an unparalleled experience within the site.

These values are not only crucial to a successful masterplan of the site, but are also crucial to the design of the individual homes. Ultimately, our duty is to serve people as best we can. By recognizing exactly what people need and desire in a home, we are able to respond through design and create a space that will be livable, beautiful and enjoyable.


Gallery of Presentation Drawings and Key Images


Goth Angario Village Precedent:


Located in the Sindh Province of Pakistan, Goth Angario is a small village that has only been in existence for 45 years. In the summer of 2010, it was severely damaged by flooding. A reconstruction project was brought to the spotlight with Architecture for Humanity's Karachi Chapter and Karachi Relief Trust.  "The population lives in deplorable conditions, with minimum or no infrastructure, water or sanitation facilities" (Architecture for Humanity).Because of this, they focused on several main categories of interest:

- Communal Layouts within several clusters

- Pathway construction

- Drainage/Septic tank/water supply :  Overhead tanks to supply housing units with running water

- Conversion of hand pumps into electric pumps

- Use of local materials

We found that several of these problems and ways of handling them were quite helpful when relating back to the Haiti project we are analyzing and designing for. They layout of the overall community was quite spectacular and interesting to the culture, which directly related to the culture of Haiti as well. The clusters could be an opportunity for family members to stay close, or a way for villagers to become closer with one another, each sharing a communal space in the center.

Separating livestock from the villagers (pathways & placement) was a very important part of their analysis. The placement of septic tanks and water tanks was a very valuable reference to look at. Both of these would immediately help with the hygiene and sanitation conditions of the previous state of the village. 

The use of local materials and local villagers to build and design not only improved the immediate economical conditions, but also gave the villagers an opportunity to interact and bond with each other. 

Because many of the conditions in this region of Pakistan are consistent to that of the region of Haiti we are designing in, several of the aspects explored above could be applicable and definitely require further research.


Below: Septic Tank and Seepage Pit built by local workers: 

Photo from Architecture for Humanity


Below: A verandah built to serve as a shelter, yet outdoor space for the villagers:

Photo from Architecture for Humanity


Below: A picture showing the individual housing units, and although different in size, they shared very similar properties with one another.

Photo from Architecture for Humanity


Pictures and Information gathered from: Architecture for Humanity Website:

http://architectureforhumanity.org/     ( http://architectureforhumanity.org/node/2142 )