A Collaborative Effort for Haiti Rebirth

UM, Haitian students to partner on plan for rebuilding quake-ravaged Port-au-Prince.

Coral Gables (July 05, 2011) — A combined team of students from the University of Miami and two academic institutions in Haiti are collaborating this summer on an architectural design proposal for rebuilding central Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which was devastated by last year’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

The students, from UM’s School of Architecture and two universities in Haiti—the Université d’Etat d’Haïti and the Université Quisqueya—will develop a portion of a plan initially proposed by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment and the Miami-based architecture firm Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company (DPZ).

That plan, unveiled late last year, calls for an improved central Port-au-Prince, rebuilding the Haitian capital with mixed-use buildings of different styles arranged on a standard street grid. The plan incorporates existing buildings where possible and uses established methods, materials, and styles for new buildings. Should the plan be implemented, international aid would help make it a reality.

The planproposes a prototype that allows existing urban blocks to be rebuilt individually. New utilities for water, power, and sewage would be consolidated in the center of each block, surrounded by parking for local residents and mixed-use buildings on the block perimeter. Each block is a self-contained “urban village.” Typical mixed-use blocks will alternate with special blocks that incorporate government ministries and other institutional buildings.

Under the guidance of professors Sam Roche and Rachel Valbrun, the students will work on a two-block site, developing these prototypes into detailed architectural plans that incorporate existing conditions. These plans can then be used to develop the plan on other blocks in central Port-au-Prince.

During the first summer term, four UM students worked to establish the basic outlines of an architectural plan. They analyzed the existing urban plan of Port-au-Prince to understand how existing building types evolved through subdivision of the original colonial blocks. They also built a model of the two-block site, established new platting according to a DPZ plan, and produced an inventory of typical building types.

During the second summer term, 12 students will assemble these elements into detailed plans for the two blocks. Each student will be responsible for developing a single building type on a particular lot. Students will build models of their buildings and combine their drawings to produce plans, sections, and elevations of each block. All drawings will be assembled in a booklet that can be used as a guidebook for other blocks.

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the School of Architecture, describes this studio as a unique opportunity to combine real-world planning experience with the traditional approach to urban planning that is a recognized strength of the school. It also builds on the Haiti charrette sponsored by the School of Architecture in the wake of last year’s earthquake, which invited local and Haitian architects and policy-makers to establish some basic guidelines for rebuilding.

Plater-Zyberk also sees the studio as part of a larger University effort to help rebuild Haiti. “We’d like to give future architects from both countries some of the practical experience that we think will be relevant in the future and to give future Haitian architects some tools and methods for, and perhaps a voice, in rebuilding their capital,” she said.

The plan on which the students will work emphasizes practical issues of design and construction. Faculty and students will draw on the expertise of designers, builders, and decision-makers in Haiti and the United States.

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