Hurricane Shelters for Haiti’s Tent Cities + Community Seeds for Haiti’s Future
As we watch the Atlantic Ocean churn out its seasonal strings of tropical storms and hurricanes, it is impossible not to be concerned by the potential peril these storms may thrust upon the people of Haiti. Displaced by the horrific earthquake of January 12, 2010, approximately 1.5 million Haitians are currently living in tent cities and coping with unimaginably complicated conditions which would only to be exacerbated if a forceful, even sub-hurricane storm were to strike. This real threat of widespread calamity is both prolonged and amplified by the fact that even the most optimistic outlooks predict these tent cities will remain largely occupied for at least several years, as rebuilding efforts struggle to gain substantial momentum.
While countless valiant efforts are currently underway in and for Haiti, there is clearly room for productive ideas and positive strategies to be thrown into the mix especially during these early stages of the long-term outlook. As such, this studio is a focused experiment, an incubator of ideas. How can we channel the promise of ideas generated at this caliber towards a place plagued with so many paralyzing factors? What value can we provide as architects operating truly from the outside? What can we do?
Coupling sincerity with design rigor, hyper-practicality with deep imagination and exploration, the baseline premise for this studio is that we can develop a catalog of highly refined, spatially astute and structurally articulate projects, and broadcast an array of strategies radically and productively alternative to the status quo. Technically free from the financial and operational pressures inherent to all on-the-ground efforts currently underway in Haiti, the experimental nature of this studio is to be fully flexed towards all explorations. In other words, designers in this studio are tasked to project architectural strategies for Haiti that would otherwise not be imagined or discussed.
Project: Framework for Haitian Reconstruction
The project consists simply of a hurricane shelter that will also act as a transformational seed for the surrounding community. The shelter might only be needed for a few days out of the year, but the nature of the structurally sound shelter may promote many other opportunities the rest of the time. This idea of permanence and temporality played an important role in the project; allowing somethings to adapt or dissolve over time while other items will remain constant.
The concept for my project was derived from a conversation with Architecture for Humanity; when asked how Haitians may programatically utilize a large open shelter I was told that they would have taken over the space before it was even completed. The idea of personal space and common ownership in Haiti allow for informal occupation to attach onto formal structures. This lead to a proposal for a Framework for Haitian Reconstruction. The main idea is to use a minimal amount of high-strength steel components that would require skilled labor to assemble. This minimal skeleton becomes a framework for local Haitian laborers to complete. The shelter and the space around it become a free gift to the local community, allowing them to program spaces as needed and reconfigure or repurpose at any time with a barrage of found and recycled materials.
Rather than utilize these structures to interrupt the existing life of Haiti by proposing new market typologies or a new structure for education, the shelters act as an infrastructure to support Haiti’s existing situation. Specific sites were chosen based on certain criteria including an existing tent city, an existing street market, and a high level of socio-economic diversity. The idea is not to limit the possibilities of the project, but rather to demonstrate its potential on a variety of sites. The shelters can be deployed as a single unit (for rural relief) as well as an aggregation of units responding to context and its own facial recognition system. This variety of deployment possibilities allows for a range of different outcomes. For example, some scenarios may support a more dense infrastructure for the street market while others may create a courtyard market to relieve congested street traffic.
Studio Instructor: Kieth Kaseman of KBAS
Digital Assistant: Brian Brush of SoftRigid