After the earthquake nearly two years ago, thousands of Haitians lost their homes and businesses and became Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), the majority of whom remain in tent structures and transitional shelters.
Planned communities seem to be the panacea for Haiti's housing shortage, but developing a successful planned community is tricky and can't be done solely through think-tanking without engaging the community. One project just beginning the first phases of construction, Santo Community, is being designed collaboratively by Architecture for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity and nearly 100 project beneficiaries already living onsite. A Haitian architecture and planning firm SODADE also assisted with community engagement and planning oversight during the initial stages. The process for designing Santo has been engaging and inclusive, and although the development is small-scale in comparison to Haiti's housing need, it may serve as a model process for designing communities.
Multiple groups have participated with heated discussions and arm-waving resulting in preferred lot layouts, housing options, market placements and sanitation preferences. The involvement in the community struck me as particularly important. Such community engagement is often left out of the process, but is essential to gain the trust and respect of future residents and also to learn about Haitian culture and how it translates into planning and architecture. Without this input and collaborative design, the project cannot truly be successful and won't have occupant buy-in crucial to creating community leaders and residents who truly care about their neighborhood and its development.
As always, track our progress down on the ground at The Haiti Rebuilding Center or AIA for Haiti.
Editor's note: Stacey writes from a unique vantage point as a former Design Fellow with Architecture for Humanity, co-supported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and US Green Building Council. Stacey returned to the United States in August 2011.