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 Team 4 (3)


Reflecting on a Life Changing Experience

When we began this studio at the beginning of the semester we knew the gist of what we were doing. We were going to be designing a community in Haiti. This seemed like a fun opportunity for us and we were all really excited to be working on it together. However, at that time we did not realize how much this semester would change us as both designers and people.


This studio has given us so much insight into the professional world of architecture and what all it takes to design a project that will actually be built. We have learned how to work as a team and create products that have helped us grow and evolve as designers. We will always be grateful to have had this opportunity while we were still in school and be able to use these experiences for future endeavors.

However, with professional practice aside, the most valuable thing we had the opportunity to do this semester is to help people that are truly in need. We have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Haiti and see people that live so much differently than ourselves and that are truly happy doing it. Being able to put ourselves out there, outside of our comfort zone, and to meet people that live so differently has impacted us the most. We have seen a way a life that is simple and straightforward and then compared this to our own lives. We have never had this opportunity before and the impact this comparison is both humbling and life changing. 

We truly appreciate the opportunity we have been given and we will always remember the experiences we have had throughout the course of this project. Whether it is professional or personal, I think we can all way that we have benefited from this experiences in ways that we will never be able to truly explain, from the bottom of our hearts. 


Young Professional Expatriate House


In this house for a young professional expatriate couple, there were several factors that influenced our design. The first was a heightened sense of public space versus private space. This was done through the creation of separate living zones within the home. The first and more private zone contains the bedrooms and bathroom, with a more public zone containing the kitchen, living and dining rooms on the other side of the house. These zones are separated by the thinner zone of circulation, which is delineated by the custom walls designed for our project.



Our second emphasis was on a relational response to the site, in particular the central node where much of the community activity will be. This site response determined the angle at which the house meets the site and also the condition in the living area, where the home steps out to give it more presence on the node. This area is also given more presence with the trellis which will bring the softening effect of hanging plants to the home.



The roof form with its open structure serves several purposes at once. First, in addition to deep overhangs that shed water, the roof was also designed with water collection in mind. The sections of the roof all come to the same point in order to give a definitive collection point for rainwater. Guttering can be used to bring this water into an underground storage tank. We left the structure of the roof exposed, choosing to use horizontal louvers with mesh screen behind to promote natural ventilation. The louvers will also block unwanted light from entering the space and causing heat gain.



Precedent to Proposal



Our team looked at the Winner of the Open Source Housing Competition, Emerging Ghana.

This was the work of the Portuguese architecture firm, Blaanc, together with Brazilian architect Joao Caiero.  Their goal was to create a new kind of housing for the people of Ghana that will be scalable, affordable, sustainable and will offer amenities to the people of Ghana that they do not necessarily have access to at the present time.


Strategies were used to incorporate the traditional values of the people of Ghana, and some traditional building techniques, with a new and efficient infrastructure (solar water heater, modern toiletry, rainwater collection and filtering, etc.)  Blaanc and Caiero used the very open facades to promote cross ventilation.  The project also used operable woven bamboo shutters both to shield the house from direct sunlight and to continue to allow airflow through the space.

Emerging Ghana Board

While working on this project, the team members were all struck by similarities between Emerging Ghana and the community we will be working on in Haiti this semester.











After evaluating the key principles of the Emerging Ghana project, whose site and conditions are very comparable to our site in Fond-des-Blancs, and speaking with our clients, Jean and Joy Thomas, our team was able to come up with key issues that we felt were must be addressed in order to form a design proposal. 

As far as the site plan is concerned, we wanted the value for the exisiting natural environment to show through. We created roads that would give the people of the community direct access to their homes, yet did not cut the roads through much of the site, in order to promote pedestrian traffic. We also chose not to build houses near the river. We saw this area as sacred and wanted to keep the existing conditions as to not disturb the rituals the people of the town partake in in their everyday life. Another way of keeping the natural area pristine is by berming the infrastructure into the steep slope that leads to the river. This will hide the ghauty structure of such a necessity as well as must the sound it creates.

It was our vision to create a development that would hold a strong sense of community and focus on the interactions these people experience with each other on a daily basis. From these ideas, our team decided that the courtyard and porch elements of the the community would hold the highest priority in our design process. We came up with multiple schemes that would allow for an interactive courtyard area connecting pods of three houses. These houses would experience an intimate courtyard interaction as individuals to one another in the pod, as well as the interaction of one pod to another. The lower leg of the site has a slightly different language in that the courtyard areas of the pods become a larger mall-like area. 

Another aspect that our group found extremely important was the ability to give the future residents of the community choices. Because there will be different sized families who will all have a different vision for their future home. We wanted the footprints of the homes seen in the site plan to remain the way they are so that the community offers diversity, however, we thought it was completely necessary to offer different plans for each footprint, so that the future residents would be able to choose the plan that fits their needs. 

The last elements that should be mentioned for our design are the prospects of commercial space and future development. Our vision for the commercial area would consist of a main building that would house a convenient store as well as a small restaurant with a gas pump in front. This would be loctated at the very edge of the site at the main road. This location is ideal due to its visibility to the rest of the town and the ability for everyone in the community to utlize it. 

Our vision for the future development of the community is that the pods would continue in the three pre-established bars on the other side of the river. These pods could possibly take new forms so as to keep the diversity of the community consistant, however,  it is our intention that all future pods would keep the exisiting courtyard conditions we created with phase one.

Review from Robert Thew on Vimeo.


Here was the commentary we received while in Haiti.