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 porch (7)


Patriate Family House - Team 6

Our first house is designed to fit a typical family. Knowing that the use of porch space is essential to daily life in Haiti, we designed our house with sliding doors that open up. This allows the indoor living space to become totally connected with the outdoor environment. 

When designing our floor plan, we wanted the progression of the house to move from public space to private. From the front porch, residents move into a large open living space that contains the kitchen, dining, and living rooms. The back of the house contains 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. This gives the family a more intimate private space that celebrates the desire for shadow and a respite from the sun. 

Knowing that rainwater collection would be a valuable addition to our house, we studied several roof forms before deciding on a butterfly roof. This form allows water to drain to the valley in the middle of the roof. The valley has a slight slope in it to encourage the water to run off the roof and into a cistern located on the side of the house. The use of a butterfly roof allowed us to not only provide the house with rainwater collection, but increases the opportunity for ventilation throughout the house. Screens are located at the top to promote air circulation to cool down the interiors. 

 Click on the link below to view our final construction document set.

Construction Documents


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.


Ex-Patriot Retiree's Home

Street View

Being tasked with creating a home for a retiree returning to Haiti from the states gave us a long list of criteria that helped shape this preliminary design of this home. Our main driver was DENSITY VS OPENNESS, meaning that we wanted all of the social spaces (kitchen, dining, living and porch) to be adjacent and zoned to one side of the home, while the private spaces (bedroom and bathrooms) would be located on the other end of the home in a densely packed zone.

Floor PlanWe felt that we could best express a sense of openness in the social spaces by opening up the walls with either vent block, or glass doors. In this way, we hope that the entire west side of the home would become a living room for entertaining and a space for enjoying the beautiful weather of Fond-Des-Blancs.

New Plan and SectionAfter reviewing this iteration, we decided we could open up the home even more if we allowed the wall of doors to fold up on each other and collapse to the sides. This would allow the living and dining to spill onto the porch, making it usable all year long. We chose to let the butterfly roof dictate our "wet" spaces by placing the kitchen and both bathrooms adjacent to the point where rainwater would be collected. This also creates a clear datum that emphasizes the separation of social and private, or even, openness vs dense.


Haiti Home Design - Round 1

For today's class, each group was given the task of completing a first iteration of two house designs. Our group focused on designing an expatriate family house and a patriate family house. We split into two smaller groups to discuss our focuses and come up with plans, sections, and elevations. 


A Patriate Family House

In thinking about the qualities that we wanted to focus on, the distinction between public and private spaces and allowing ventilation throughout the house became priorities. We zoned the house into a private band - the bedrooms and bathrooms, a semi-private band - the living, dining, and kitchen areas, and a public band consisting of the porch. We began a study of how to best provide ventilation through the pitch and form of the roof and the areas that might contain vent block on the house. 

In our critique, our professors gave us further suggestions and ideas on how to best form the roof. We will look into changing our design to a butterfly roof in order to promote both ventilation and rainwater collection. We will also further analyse the connection between the living area and the porch. We want to design our house so that we can take advantage of the climate in Haiti. We will also change the current location of the dining area so that it is incorporated into the rest of the living space. These changes will help reinforce our ideas and distinctions between public and private spaces.

ExPatriate Family House

Our team came up with the initial design for this house as part of the schematics that we took down to Haiti to present to Jean and Joy. We modified it based on the feedback that was given while in Haiti. Ventilation, daylight, and ease of construction were the focus for this design.

Moving forward with this design will require a deeper look into the layout of the core spaces. The parti of the house is working well and just needs a little refinement, but the design needs to reflect it more. This will be accomplished by analyzing the adjacency of spaces, working on organization, and refining the interior layout so that it reflects the concept.  



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