The Labyrinths of Delmas 32

The Labyrinths of Delmas 32

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Jul 22, 2010
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They say it will take a thousand trucks a thousand days to remove all the rubble from Port-au-Prince, and that estimation seems conservative as you drive around town. Rubble removal will be an enormous undertaking. Parsons may have landed the huge rubble removal contract-meaning the overall operation will likely be big-budget, fast and loud-but that's not stopping smaller groups from working more intimately with communities and operating with a surgical finesse.

Delmas 32 requires this sort of special attention. An extremely dense neighborhood pressed from all sides by a still-growing Port-au-Prince, Delmas 32 raised some heads as the MTPTC (Ministry of public works, transportation and communications) began tagging damaged buildings there.

The rubble began to be organized, in some cases self-organized. Flattened buildings were picked apart by their residents and moved to piles of block and dust in the narrow streets. There are piles everywhere, trapping cars in some cases and making a single-file labyrinth out of every backstreet. Some piles became the new route up to second stories.

As the MTPTC came along, buildings were rated according to their structural stability: green, yellow or red marked with spray paint and at times a stencil on the street-facing wall. It gets tricky in Delmas 32 where there are buildings behind buildings, accessed by deep zagging passageways up or down the urbanized hillside. In cases where a red buildings (to be demolished) are identified behind green or yellow buildings (to be preserved or retrofitted)…well their demolition becomes a challenge. Especially considering how even the streets in these neighborhoods can only be accessed on foot or with wheelbarrow.

The J/P Haitian Relief Organization has a few ideas for this situation, in terms of immediate rubble removal and longer-term neighborhood invigoration. They invited Architecture for Humanity to advise on urban design, and we made it to the field office yesterday for an orientation. J/P HRO recognizes Delmas 32's rich cultural distinction and wants to clear the condemned buildings and provide new constructions with the utmost respect–a necessary attitude for good design. They had just set up shop (a few tents and coverings on a rooftop) a couple weeks ago after reaching out to the local government. The mayor of Delmas 32 had had a longstanding relationship with various NGO's and is exciting by what J/P is proposing.

Delmas (pronounced "delmah") 32 is one of several numbered neighborhoods branching off the Rte de Delmas. (Delmas itself is a "commune," or political subdivision of the Port-au-Prince arrondissement.) It's still-operating markets and schools, whose wares and laugher carry themselves along the undulating corridors, and its ambitious officials make it a perfect starting point for the kind of renovation J/P HRO and Architecture for Humanity have started discussing.

Original article on Students Rebuild