Last year was truly momentous for ARCHIVE. We broke ground on our very first construction project for new / innovative housing, “Kay E Sante Nan Ayiti” (Health and Housing in Haiti). Following an exciting design competition that attracted entries from all over the world, five winning designs were selected.
These and many of the entries showcased ideas, perhaps even challenged our assumptions, about how design and architecture can address concerns of health with better housing.
Early last year we carried out an intensive process with each of the teams in completing the architectural design drawings used in the bid selection process to find a local contractor. Collaboration among the teams, and understanding materials, systems and available infrastructure were a key part of the process.
In April, the dirt road to the Bois L’Etat project site was repaired, which was no small feat, given its existing condition of the road due to the region’s heavy tropical storms. With the help of local engineers, workers and the proper equipment, the road’s many rough patches were soon graded and stabilized. Now with suitable access, trucks could carry materials to the site and construction was soon under way. It was a tremendously busy time for our volunteers. The highlight of the project at this point was the groundbreaking ceremony we held in June on the site just outside of Saint-Marc. The event was attended by many guests including team members of Breathe House, from the University of Virginia. Peter Williams, ARCHIVE’s Executive Director joined with our Haitian partner Esther Boucicault, Founder/Director of FEBS and local officials to mark this project milestone. I am still remembering the big helping of the traditional “lalou” Esther placed on my plate that day!
By midsummer construction was in full swing on the first two houses – Shutter Dwelling and Maison Canopy. Although the heat was intense, the enthusiasm of the local construction workers (which included both men and women) and the villagers who would visit every day, helped us overcome this and other challenges. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. A passing cyclone, material shortages from our local suppliers and torrential rains all caused us delays. I learned from my Haitian colleagues, that patience was my valuable asset and it was best to take it one day at a time.
As foundation building continued, Megan Marini our Project Assistant, worked closely with junior engineer, Manno Emmanuel, to help team members understand better building practices. Following the designs of our respective winning teams, Alex Cherenfant, our general contractor, with his construction team put up the reinforced walls. We continue to build towards completion and aim to finish all five houses in 2012. Of course it must be said that to arrive at this point has taken the collective efforts of many people, and our gratitude and appreciation goes out to all those who have given their time and effort to this innovative project.
Lastly, while we are steadfast in our goal of building better and healthier housing, we will also focus this year on a nutritional program we hope to create for the site using sustainable agriculture and nutrient-rich crops. We hope you will continue to stay involved and support us.
by Joy Gutierrez, Haiti Project Coordinator