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 Concrete (1)


Reflection & Next Steps

Traveling to Haiti gave us a whole new perspective on life, culture, construction, climate, and all kinds of other local conditions. It was a truly humbling and life changing experience. We could go on and on about key issues we were able to identify, but we've chosen the ones that are most relevant to our project:

Local Materials / Construction Technologies:

When designing in any unfamiliar context, it is always important to look at local construction practices, available materials, and feasibility of access/transportation. Being wise about your material palate is mandatory when designing in these conditions. Concrete and masonry were pretty much the norm.. Concrete block are often cast on site, making transportation to remote locations much easier. There was hardly any glass on the structures we saw. Rather, vent blocks were used. These allow cross ventilation, and cooperate well with the wall assembly module. Like blocks, they can be cast on site as well.

Vent blocks: the local standard for ventilation and openings in Haitian construction. Photo by Zach Smith

Shade, Light, and Ventilation:

Lack of air-conditioning is the standard in almost all of Haiti. This makes solar orientation, aperture sizing, shading methods extremely important. Haitian construction utilizes vent block, or hollow cmu shapes, for window construction. If planned well and placed correctly, these may also contribute to cross ventilation. Shade is another thing to strive for. Haiti is very hot almost all year round. Planning using solar orientation is an important part of construction. Deep overhangs are also a way to provide shade to openings in the structure.

Open air vent block in Haitian classroom. Photo by Zach Smith

Porch and Community

We quickly became aware that the porch of a Haitian house is usually the most important "room" of any residence. Our clients mentioned that almost all gatherings at one's house took place on their porch. Through our design, we must look for a way to give hierarchy to this important space in Haitian culture.

Porch area in Fond-des-Blancs home. Photo by Cassidy Barnett


While the Haitian People had a strong sense of community, privacy was also a significant thing. The idea of having one's own property was very important to people there. Almost all the property lines in Fond des Blancs we marked off with rows of cacti. In a country were everyone has very little, the people are very proud of the things they do possess.

Local privacy fence with wooden gate entrance. The actual fences are cacti. Photo by Cassidy Barnett

Pragmatic, Sustainable Construction Practices

What we American's know as "style" is not as high of a priority in a country like Haiti. We must find ways to create architecture with a sustainable material palate, without being wasteful or inefficient. We must find ways to building sustainably in a country that often doesn't have the luxury to use green technologies.

Concrete blocks cast on site. Photo by Zach Smith