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. 

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Entries in Precedent Analysis (3)


Design Proposal

Precedent Analysis

Butterfly Houses

Analysis of Butterfly Houses

Located in a small village of Noh Bo, Tak on the Thai-Burmese border, the Butterfly Houses were designed by TYIN Tegnestue, a non profit organization specializing in humanitarian architecture. This community of dormitories was designed to work in collaboration with the existing orphanage. The goal was to create a space where children could have a normal living experience, with room to climb, swing, interact, or be alone. Our analysis focused primarily on the functionality of the units and how we might glean principles out of their design to utilize in our design of Haitian residences.





Site Plan and Driving ConceptsPrivate Courtyard DiagramStreet ViewPedestrian Walkway

Street View Looking Into CourtyardFloor Plan

When designing this proposal for a housing development in Fonds Des Blancs, Haiti, we decided to shape our program around four major, driving concepts. In order to optimize views and maintain a strong edge along the street, porches were designed to fit the house and act as a buffer between the irregularly placed houses and the rigid street. Most of the porches used are considered private and semi-private, so that they can better serve the inward-focused courtyard or take full advantage of interactions that would occurr along the street edge.

Throughout the site, a pedestrian path has been created to guide both visitors and residents through the site, serving as the main connection between the commercial zone along the main street and the large communal space located near the intersection of the streams. This path follows the natural topography of the site within a rigid, paved framework, while also interweaving various landscape features. Running the full length of the path is a colonade of trees designed to optimize certain views and shield other views into the private courtyard. These trees serve as a guide to lead pedestrians to the communal pavilion or the commercial space. Views have dictated much of what was designed on the site, from the orientation of the homes, to the location of the pavilion and communal space.

Every house on the site has been designed in such a way that it acts as one part of group of homes that create several pods across the site. This layout allowed us to utilize the private courtyards and create an inward focusing space that can be used as a gathering place for cooking, socializing or recreation. While each home is allotted to their own lot, the private courtyard acts as  backyard to each home within the pod.

Team 3 Design Proposal Gallery









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.  




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.