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

search haiti_utk
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 Design Development (4)


Haiti: First Design Proposal

­Design Proposal:

Changing density

Creating a small shared community space

Going with the topo

Using rainwater for washing/plumbing

Residential over commercial spaces

Keeping the site pedestrian friendly

Making sure the housing has equal amounts of outdoor living space and indoor living space

            Our design proposal for the site in Haiti encompasses five goals that we set for the site.  The first goal is to create a density gradient that begins whenever you enter the site at the commercial zone.  The buildings there would be two-stories and be a continuous block to give the sense of a main street. From there, the buildings will drop to one story and state to break off from each other.  The second goal was to create many shared community spaces throughout the site. The community space starts out as a large pedestrian way that will merge with a shared street and start defining other small spaces throughout the site.  Thirdly, we wanted to follow the natural terrain while laying out the site.  We tried to accomplish this by having the topography of the site mandate where the building would be set.  As our fourth goal, we wanted to incorporate sustainable features into the design.  We allowed room for carports to collect rainwater, the ability to add photovoltaic panels to be added to the buildings, and to have some sort of wind powered generator.  As our last goal, we tried to make sure that we had an equal and balanced amount of outdoor living space and indoor living space.  Together we expect these goals to create an open, green, pedestrian friendly site that allows the cohabitants enough room to carry out their social gatherings and still practice their own culture. 




Reflections and Next Steps

Key Issues:

  1. Variation in size of housing
  2. Indoor cooking and eating area
  3. Car access to houses
  4. Consideration of the ridge in relation to house placement


Traveling to Haiti had a huge influence on our perceptions of the country and it’s people. While it was helpful to complete precedent studies and have skype interviews with Jean and Joy Thomas, nothing can compare to actually interacting with the landscape and people. Due to the fact that Forrest had been to Haiti before, our team was able to have initial conversations about the culture and building styles that gave us a stronger framework to begin with. As a result, the majority of our design ideas and concepts could become successful with some tweaking.


Our perception of the site has changed significantly since traveling to Fond-des-Blancs. What we perceived as a gradual slope in some areas is much more significant and will force changes in positioning and design of some structures on our site. Having the opportunity to walk the site and document existing vegetation as well as views will make our ideas stronger. One of the main considerations that we took away from our visit is the placement of the road throughout the site. We will need to be sure to have vehicular access to each house, while maximizing the number of houses to be included. Each house will need ample yard space as well.


Another change in perception was the issue of outdoor cooking. While it is true that the vast majority of Haitians do their cooking outside using charcoal, this will not be the main form of cooking in the houses that we will be designing. In dialogue with Jean and Joy during our presentations, Joy emphasized the desire for a formal kitchen in each house. The use of charcoal is not a sustainable practice and is killing the majority of native hardwoods on the island. Jean and Joy want to encourage the use of gas for cooking and will be providing propane to do so. In addition, a majority of the target audience for this housing development is ex-patriots who will be relocating to Haiti. These individuals will be used to more modern methods of cooking and will need traditional kitchens as well as space to eat their meals indoors. While not eliminating a way to cook with charcoal entirely, the design of our housing will shift to provide more dining accommodations indoors. 


Design Through Place and Passage

Research and Precedent:


Our intro into the semester was an analysis of the design elements that draw individuals to a specific place, creating a sense of community. Our team looked at Market Square in Knoxville, TN in contrast to Historic Route 66. The main concepts that we took away from this precedent were the sense of passage and place. These two elements play off each other by creating dynamic spaces that draw people in. We discovered that a passage has the ability to create a sense of place in itself. This creates the advantage of heightening one’s sense of discovery.


For a deeper look into community development and housing precedent, we conducted a study of the redevelopment of Jacmel, Haiti by Trans_City architecture and urbanism. Issues of density, variation of housing, materials, and customization became important aspects that will directly relate to our community development in Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti. The proposal for Jacmel provides three sizes of housing to accommodate various inhabitants. These houses are to be prefabricated, while local craftsmen will construct the finishes and decorative elements. This concept is an important aspect of rebuilding the economy and instilling pride in local Haitians.


Design Proposal:


Concept: We began with an emphasis on the aspects of place and passage in order to establish a hierarchy for the placement of housing, commercial, and communal buildings. We sought to create nodes within the development to promote a feeling of community and interaction between the residents. We wanted to respect the topography of the site and by doing so, allowed it to influence the placement of structures. Each decision was grounded in bettering the Haitian community and making the best use of our site.


Site Context: We determined that the front stretch of the site was an opportune location for a commercial building that would allow residents to purchase supplies and produce, similar to a small convenience store in the United States. We felt that maintaining a stretch of land as a garden was important, as it would provide fresh produce to be sold in the store. The front of the site will consist of two story structures with commercial space on the first floor and residences on the top. This would provide spaces for local craftsmen to sell their products. We felt that it was important to place our houses in respect to the ridge that runs along the stream in the back of the property. This prevents the need for major alterations to the topography while maximizing the views that are provided. Placing the community pavilion at the confluence of the two streams takes advantage of a lower level of flat ground and overlooks what is considered the most sacred view on the site. The western portion of the site lends itself to more private houses suitable for ex-patriots that will be relocating to Fond-des-Blancs. This area is separated by the stream and will be accessed by a footbridge and a road from the neighboring airfield. The potential for expansion of phase two of the project will continue to create a larger sense of community to the development.




Design Through Threshold


Going into this project, we initially looked at space as a series of thresholds in two precedents: the Scholar’s Corridor on the University of Tennessee’s campus and the Chapel of Saint Mary and the Angels in Switzerland by Mario Botta. Although the two were on completely different scales, they both used thresholds to lead people into and through the spaces, and then, eventually, onto the final destination. We took this into account when we began laying out the site for the community of houses. 

It became immediately apparent to us that there were some areas in the site that were better suited for community space, and there were some that had better views.  That left us with the conundrum of how to tie these spaces into the grid of houses.  The sequence of thresholds begins at the entrance to the site.  By locating the retail at the front of the site, both residents and visitors can utilize the services. The main road continues straight from the entrance to the main residential area with smaller vehicular drives and footpaths branching off from it.  There is a definite change in atmosphere as one crosses the threshold between the retail and residential. This is because the residential is inwardly on the people who dwell within the community.  We also found influence for this from the “walk streets” in Venice Beach, California.  

The first iteration of our plan is shown above.  Our goal was to make minimal moves which would result with great effect.  We created one primary vehicular thoroughway along the northern perimiter with the housing branched along the "walk through streets."

In order to maintain a sense of community, we sought to find a way to include footpaths and front porches where neighbors would see each other in passing on a regular basis. These footpaths lead through the community and culminate at the community space next to the river.  When designing the river, we turned to the dogtrot style homes for inspiration.   These homes were very successful in the Southeastern part of the United States, and we felt their emphasis on the front porch, as well as their ability to circulate air through and under the home, would allow it to function well in the humid climate of Fond des Blancs.  Although there are several different iterations of the floor plans, which range from two to four bedrooms, they all contain an exterior family space and a breezeway through the middle. 

Two Bedroom Home.  All gray area is covered exterior space.

Three Bedroom Home.  All gray area is covered exterior space.

Four Bedroom Home.  All gray area is covered exterior space.