At 5:00, following another day's work at the Haiti Rebuilding Center, a contingent of six 2nd year graduate students from the University of Minnesota assembled the entire office for what was to be an impressive and thoughtful final review.
Earning studio credit for six weeks spent living and working with the Haiti team in Port-au-Prince, the students, divided into two teams, worked on a number of assignments and supported ongoing projects for Architecture for Humanity. As the sun set through the open front door, the teams' projected slides unfurled their efforts on a number of projects: the organization of community charrettes for the new Santo development; analysis and mapping of commercial corridors around Port-au-Prince; development of models and manuals for a composting latrine block for the Pele school; schematic, design and construction documents for an orphanage in Carrefour.
Following the review and discussion with the Architecture for Humanity team as dusk gave way to night, the students talked about their Haiti experience, and are generous enough to share their thoughts with a Flipcam and the wider world.
"For me, [the program] reaffirmed the notion that architecture is above building," Cody Stadler softly notes. "We use buildings to define what architecture is, but it's so much more than that. It affects cultural systems." He shrugs. "In essence, architecture affected the disaster."
When asked, finally, what the students disliked about the program, cold showers and giant bugs were cited, as was a certain inflexibility of the Architecture for Humanity team to discuss the work. But overall, as a university collaboration in a post-disaster context, everyone was satisfied. Several of the students have even opted to stick around another couple weeks.
This collaboration with UMN has been a conversation between professor Jim Lutz and the Rebuilding Center for over a year. It's hard to say if another such program can be organized with the Haiti office, but the quality of work and good impression left by this group have greatly increased those odds.
The UMN studio has kept a Tumblog of their experience in Haiti.