Postcard from Port-au-Prince

Published on August 13, 2010   ·   No Comments

By Kathie Klarreich

As a result, say architects like Pardo, wood and wood facsimiles look to be a big part of Haiti’s reconstruction — especially for the more immediate task of providing sturdier temporary housing, before this summer’s hurricanes arrive, for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in rickety tents and jerry-built shacks. The Shelter Cluster, a group of more than 70 relief organizations that includes the U.N., has committed to erecting 130,000 transitional or semipermanent homes to ease Haitians out of squalid tent camps. Many, like the up to 6,000 shelters that the Maryland-based Cooperative Housing Foundation International hopes to provide, use wood, plastic siding and steel, as well as green components like solar lamps. The Duany firm’s Haitian Cabins employ a flexible fiber composite that has a high energy-saving-insulation rating and are designed to allow ample cross-ventilation. They can be modified, expanded or arranged in bunches to accommodate Haitian lakous, or extended-family communities.
(See pictures of the destruction wrought by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.)

Still, fewer than 6,000 new homes have been built in postquake Haiti. The core problems: a scarcity of available land to put them on — a situation made worse because the earthquake destroyed most Haitian property titles — and mounds of rubble choking land that could be used. Pressure is on for the Haitian government to begin to resolve those issues as well as promote the gingerbread houses and the construction standards they exemplify. “If we don’t respect the values of the past,” Jean Julien insists, “we can’t build a better future.”

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