Haitian transitions

Haitian transitions

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • May 25, 2012
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Sandhya Janardhan heads the "back end" of Architecture for Humanity's Haiti program, working out of Headquarters in San Francisco - typically. Her latest visit to Port-au-Prince lasted two months. Recently returned, Sandhya shared what the conversation's been this year for the Rebuilding Center, and how the Center, like many other NGOs operating in Haiti, is undergoing transition.

Disaster recovery is hitting the two-year mark - and the scenery's changed. Some squares around Port-au-Prince, having finally stricken tent camps, are re-opening for public use for the first time since the earthquake. Downtown has recovered some of its commerce, and the night life is increasingly vibrant there. For foreign orgs, the move from disaster relief to long-term construction is gaining momentum.


A lot of Haiti's commerce is still operating informally. Umbrella'd street merchants are a mainstay of trade, especially in Port-au-Prince. Supporting formal economic recovery is an ongoing focus of the Rebuilding Center - that won't change. Through the Bati Byen program, the Rebuilding Center has been pioneering partnerships with local banks to sponsor business recovery and reconstruction.

Top: Urban Acupuncture "Priority Zone" rendering for Villa Rosa; next: Sandhya, image by Alice Sabi; above: Original Marketplace in Tabarre; potable water Kiosk in Delmas 33; water merchant, Delmas 33. Photos by Jessie Towell

"We're encouraging clients to look at master plans." In the rush to get things built, a proper planning phase can go by the wayside. And that's unfortunate.

"Due to the fact construction costs are so high in Haiti, we quickly saw that projects had to be approached in a phased manner." This ensures construction is completed strategically, instead of ad hoc as funds become available."

Phasing plan for CIM School

With these values in mind, the Center has been meeting on and toured sites for its next wave of projects. Schools are still very much in the picture, though Architecture for Humanity is in discussions to rebuild some of Haiti's public schools, who have a different set of design challenges than the private schools the Center has partnered with to date.

"Some of these school are incredibly massive - educating 2 to 4 thousand boys." The Rebuilding Center is bidding to work on some of these public schools - any one of these projects would easily be the largest construction undertaking of Architecture for Humanity in Haiti.

Amidst all the refocusing in Haiti these days, the Rebuilding Center is positioned to be a guiding voice for the next several years of reconstruction. With nearly two years of experience already under its belt, the Center has learned much, built a network of Haitian design and construction professionals, and is developing a more and more Haitian staff to make the Rebuilding Center an autonomous, Haitian NGO - dedicated to holistic, responsible design for the continued development of the country.