Lisa Victor, who just returned from Haiti with her colleague Chris Haegglund, writes the first in the series of BAR Architect’s "Letter from Haiti.” BAR Architects is donating design services to Architecture for Humanity’s Rebuilding Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Lisa and Chris were the first in a rotating team of architects who will be working at The Rebuilding Center throughout the year. Their focus will be on the design of a rural school sponsored by Haiti Partners.
Since I have returned so many of you have asked me what my two weeks in Haiti were like. I am afraid I have disappointed you with my pat responses, which have run from "amazing" and "incredible" to "life-changing" and "I will never be the same again." I have still not come up with a satisfactory way to express how Haiti has touched me. Perhaps as time and distance work their magic I will understand this more. What I can tell you is that although this was my first trip to Haiti I know it will not be my last. Haiti has cast her spell on me.
Maybe what has me smitten is the contrast between the horrors of what the Haitian people have been though over the centuries (foreign occupation, slavery, massacres, acute poverty, corrupt leaders, the monstrous January 2010 earthquake, cholera outbreaks) and the dignity and hope I saw while I was there. Amidst the noisy, filthy, devastated city of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas, moments of beauty and life contradict the chaos. I've sent you some pictures to show you what I mean.
And thank you, Haiti. I will be back.
A creamy-grey limestone wall
is overrun with lush bouganvilla
Baskets of mangoes, pineapples and
bananas are for sale on the streets
A little girl with sparkly eyes in her
freshly pressed school uniform knows that
anything is possible
Amidst the dust are moments of Caribbean color
in the exuberant signage, tap-taps, and street art
The Haiti Partner’s school site literally rises
above the disorder. A half hour drive from
Port-au-Prince, this hilltop spot gives a glimpse
of the beauty of the Haitian countryside
Children from the local village are excited
about the new school to be built by Haiti Partners
and Architecture for Humanity
The hills are alive with the continuous cocoricos
of ten-thousand roosters (especially at night)
Mothers and babies: there are signs
of new life everywhere
Lavish cakes wait in the patisserie
ready for a celebration
(photo courtesy of Stacey McMahon)