University of Miami School of Architecture 


Architecture’s CUCD continues to plan Haiti’s new population center

May 19th, 2014UM News

Less than a year after the School of Architecture’s Center for Urban and Community Design (CUCD) was awarded two foundation grants to promote locally led development and civic engagement in Haiti’s Arcahaie region, the blueprint for turning the fertile, coastal commune north of Port-au-Prince into a new population center less vulnerable to earthquakes began to take its final form in May.

For four intense days, a team of architecture professors, alumni, students and consultants gathered in a design studio at the School of Architecture to plan, create and critique the drawings that will illustrate their final recommendations for connecting Arcahaie’s highland and lowland communities, fortifying building construction, expanding the infrastructure, and improving tourism and the economy.

Though the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is investing in Arcahaie as a potential new sustainable population center because of its distance from major fault lines, it is not invulnerable to earthquakes or other natural disasters. “It is the lesser of evils,” said CUCD Director Sonia Cháo, the principal investigator on the Kellogg grant and a complementary grant awarded by the Barr Foundation. “But this area is beautiful and fertile so there is great potential.”

For Chao, the real potential lies in Arcahaie’s people, and their eagerness to envision their future community. For the past year, they have attended numerous charrettes and other planning meetings that Cháo and other members of three grant teams held in different locales across the region.

“In Haiti, a lot of the construction is self-built so while people use the right materials – concrete block and rebar – the structures are not put together the right way, which affects their solidity and quality,” said Miami architect and UM alumnus Derrick Smith, who with UM Professor John Onyango make up the building team and are exploring short-term solutions.

The seeds for this May’s In-House Technical Charrette were planted by another intensive charrette held at the School weeks after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Haiti’s Ministry of Reconstruction turned to the School of Architecture to develop a blueprint for Haiti’s reconstruction. Three years later, when the Kellogg Foundation awarded its grant, Cháo assembled some of the same UM architecture professors, graduates and consultants who worked on the original reconstruction plan in 2010.

In addition to Smith, they include CUCD research affiliate Gustavo Sanchez-Hugalde and UM alumnus Max Zabala, who with Cháo are on the regional team looking at long-term solutions; Professor Jaime Correa and part-time faculty Steven Fett and Armando Montero, who are on the town team looking at mid-scale solutions; Haitian-American architects Jackie Génard, a UM alumna and building systems expert who is assisting the building team, and Boukman Mangones, a typology expert, who is working on the town team; civil engineer Joseph DeLuca, of the Crabtree Group, Inc.; and Laurie Bennett and David Burch, of YouthBuild International, a non-profit that, to date, has served more than 8,000 students, and with a local partner, constructed seven vocational training centers across Haiti.

With this support, Chao is confident that the SOA Haiti Initiative is on track to deliver its final Vision Report in November 2014.

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Photos by Jenny Abreu.

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