Reconstructing Haiti

Over the last 18 months, Trans_City Architecture and Urbanism, has developed a comprehensive plan for the reconstruction of Jacmel, Haiti based upon the concept of satellite cities located at the edge of the existing, earthquake-ravaged city center.  This concept was developed in accordance with the universal design principals of the Housing Reconstruction Framework of the Haitian Government.

The concept includes an urban master plan, and a proposal for prefabricated houses, in which the building shell is industrially manufactured in Austria, and finished by local hand workers.  In line with the content of the project, the architecture does not attempt to be spectacular.  Rather it is the holistic integration of the many levels of an urban system that makes this project interesting.

The urbanism proposes an ecologically sustainable planning for a topographically challenging tropical site. The site has been divided into three basic zones, depending upon their topographical qualities.

1) Steep hillsides, which are not build-able, are to be reforested.
2) Valley bottoms, which are also not build-able due to flash-flood dangers, will be terraces and converted to middle intensity agriculture for local consumption.
3) Ridges and plateaus are inhabitable for the built environment.

An essential objective of the planning was the construction of an affordable, ridge-top road network that linked the built-up areas with each other as well as to the access road Route 204 connecting to Jacmel.  Along these roads, a series of neighborhoods were developed, each with their own school, market and commercial center.  These are in turn linked to a central commercial and administration center adjoining a light industrial district which will house textile shops and hopefully a baseball manufacture, a traditional handwork specialty of Haiti.  Child care, social centers and educational facilities are central aspects of the planning concept.

The spatial structure of the neighborhoods is determined by their topographical conditions.  In the flatter areas the streets are laid out perpendicular to the main street in a classic gridiron system with interspersed green parks; the houses are one-story high.  In the steeper areas the streets track the site contours and are interconnected by a series of planted stairs; the two-family houses are two stories high and offset so that their entries address the terracing of the streets.