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 Proposal (3)


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. 




Design Proposal: 1 Week Charette

Research and Precedent

To begin our process of exploring and designing, we chose 2 places to compare/contrast that had an attractive quality to locals and visitors. We researched Cherokee Boulevard in Knoxville, TN, and the Highline in New York City, NY.  Why are people attracted to these areas? What defines these spaces?  The Highline’s green space is defined by the existing, once operating rail road tracks elevated 30 feet above the streets of NY. It demonstrates compression and release in the paving patterns and green spaces.  People seek out this space in the midst of the NYC chaos to relax and unwind.  Cherokee Boulevard’s green space is defined by trees, water, and cliffs.  The compression and release is created in the gravel path down the center of the boulevard that releases out into intersections, fountains and open areas preserved for recreation. People are attracted to this area for the open spaces as well as relaxing atmosphere. We were able to use this research for future development of the project. We used the ideas of what gave the spaces their attractiveness by creating smaller areas within the site for people to gather.

Cherokee Boulevard, Knoxville, TN. Central walking trailHighline, New York City, NY.

In addition to researching gathering places, we researched a community redevelopment project in order to better understand the process of community reconstruction. The project we researched was Monwabisi Park, Cape Town, South Africa. We focused on the second phase of the project (not yet underway) which is the housing. We learned that the method of Earthbag construction was a great fit for that community because of their natural resources and easy labor method of building these Earthbag houses.

We wanted to take the concept of natural resources and apply it to our project proposal, in terms of using mostly readily available materials and methods for easy and less expensive construction. Our proposal consists of using locally made CMU with some wood for roof tresses. 


Design Proposal

Before our journey to Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti, each of the 7 teams, over the course of a week, came up with an overall community plan, given the site parameters. This included placement of roads, housing, detailed floor plans, existing elements, bridges, etc. We were equipped with information from Jean via a Skype interview where he gave us his ideas for the housing project. The purpose of this exercise was to begin brainstorming ideas for design as well as to have presentation material for Jean and Joy Thomas (the developers of this project) while in Haiti.

Our team's presentation to Jean and Joy Thomas in Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti

The principle behind our design was to create organization out of chaos.  We achieved organization by setting each housing unit 12 feet from the road and 15 feet off the left side of the property line of each unit. 

First draft site plan proposal

Although the overall plan is free flowing, the placement of each dwelling unifies and creates organization and stability.  Each unit is designed with a porch facing a connecting path or road in the community.  This conscious arrangement, of unit and porch, encourages social interaction between neighbors and passersby. 

We utilized approximately 60% of the footprint for indoor space with the remaining 40% for outdoor, although this varies with the different housing types (1-4 bedroom houses). 

We also utilized a sawtooth type roofing system to allow light into more areas of the house while also providing additional ventilation.  




Comprehending the misunderstood

One can never fully understand a foreign nation.  There are too many intricate nuances to ever fully investigate.  There is too little time to hear enough stories.  We are born with too few eyes to perceive everything around us… and our visit was merely five awe-inspiring days. 

Upon arrival to Haiti our senses were overwhelmed.  There was a distinct smell, few lights, and an abundance of new noises.  As we exited Port au Prince and neared Fond-des-Blanc, it was as if we were stepping back in time to a land more pure and in tune with itself.  The region held modern people with modern ideas in an ancient landscape.  The juxtaposition was poignant.  Women with the reigns to a donkey in one hand and child in the other spoke to men on motorcycles with cell phones.  It certainly was not what many of us expected.  The people seemingly tolerated us, but without the benefit of mutual language it was difficult to discern their spoken feelings.  We relied on body language and noticed many of the most beautiful smiles and welcoming gestures we’ve ever encountered.  The Haitians of Fond-des-Blanc evidently understood our mission.

Fond-des-Blanc is an agricultural region draped with the most breathtaking mountain scenery in the Caribbean and is a mere sixty miles from the capital city of Port-au-Prince.  After traversing the dusty rugged roads we arrived at our destination and were met by Haitian native Jean Thomas and his American wife Joy.  From the beginning, our team extracted the most information we could in the allowable time from our like-languaged guides.  Upon arrival on the site, our hearts sank.  This was not the site we expected to see based on our rudimentary 2D plans.  The grading was steeper, the forests thicker, and the proportions much different than we had expected.  Our proposal, we soon realized, was not going to cut it. 

Dani and Pete presenting the initial site plan

After putting aside our apparent inability to fully understand the site through plan, we were charged with cataloging a series of panoramic views from eight distinct areas of the site.  Although the setting was serene, hiking to each location was far from a walk in the park.  Each area differed vastly from the others, even when the separation was only a few dozen yards.  The panoramas offer a rich montage of views.  These views will become increasingly important as we design the individual homes to populate our community.  While many were fully blocked or partially obstructed by thick Haitian vegetation, others offered sweeping vistas to the mountains beyond the mountains.  At the crest of our site, the tilled soil is shown in panorama as a sweeping plane uninterrupted except for the distant forest and a lone palm tree.  Approaching the confluence of the small stream (what we were told was a river), the ground could not be more different.  It is not only divided by water, but abruptly punctuated by cliff sides and steep rocky slopes.  In between the two are panoramas of thick forest, grown cactus fences, and rocky topsoil.