Charrettes deliver insights for new communities in Haiti

Charrettes deliver insights for new communities in Haiti

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Aug 04, 2011
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With hundreds of thousands of Haitians still living in tent camps and downtown Port-au-Prince reconstruction at an apparent standstill, more focus is put on ground-up developments in and around the capital city where land rights for large tracts can be certified.

One such area is Santo, just south of Léogâne, where a community plan for 500 families is being developed collaboratively by Architecture for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity International and dozens of soon-to-be residents.

Through a series of charrettes, or intensive collaborative design sessions, openly-invited locals assemble into groups to inform increasingly complex design issues. This most recent charrette, held July 14, worked with 80 local Haitians on the organization of private lots and community blocks. The facilitators supplied two "game sets" for a 3D Lot Game (including garden, tree and house expansion elements) and a 2D Block Game, (with pieces for 20-unit community blocks: agriculture plots, well water spigots, trash areas and a playground). The discussion sessions were followed by a seven-question survey.

The results have now been tallied, and some report highlights below show ways in which next steps can be taken toward solidifying the Santo plan, and shedding light on future large-scale planning projects now taking shape around the island nation:

3D Lot Game findings

  • Extension: People asked if they were required to build the extension in the same way as the starter house, if the same materials would be available, and if they would have access to the construction plans. Approx 30% have the intention of extending the house right away. Many indicated that they did not need the [lot] partitions and that they would remove them and re-use the wood for other purposes, such as to build the extension.
  • Parking: Some residents have cars or are drivers for wealthier families in town and are responsible for their employer’s car at night. Concern that sidewalks would not be safe enough to park on. If the house is to the side of the lot, there is space to park a car. Also people can agree to leave some open space in their courtyard for parking.
  • Latrine: As far from the house as possible – at the back of the lot. Many placed trees around their latrine to hide it and keep it cool. Some remarked that if the latrine was close to the house they would have a smaller distance to walk in the rain to use it– concluded that it should be on the opposite side to the cooking area.

2D Block Game findings

  • Shared gardens and agricultural space: Agricultural pieces in courtyard style blocks were generally located within the courtyard, away from block edges. Conversely, clustered blocks often situated agricultural pieces along the edges of the block. One courtyard scheme uses agriculture as a buffer zone from the street. Clustered blocks seem to use fewer and smaller agricultural pieces between 2 or 3 housing lots (though, in some cases, this can also be seen between housing lots in courtyard schemes too), while courtyard blocks seem to use larger (or more numerous) agriculture pieces for the entire community (block).
  • Playground: Preferred to place them internally to have maximum supervision. Often placed wells near the playgrounds so people getting water can check on their children. One person commented that children sent to fetch water might be distracted from their task and join in the games.
  • Social: It seemed that women sell at the market or have a small vending business, while men are farmers, masons, etc. The women were most insistent about living by the road.

For more on the Santo Community Development Plan, check out the Santo project page on the Open Architecture Network, and download the full Charrette Report (pdf). Images by Sven Kalim.