Housing Reconstruction and Community Development in Haiti

Downtown Port au Prince Market. March 2011. Photo by Anya Brickman Raredon

Following the earthquake that struck Port au Prince, Haiti on January of 2010 CoLab and its affiliates have engaged in a series of initiatives to encourage and support a sustainable and forward-thinking reconstruction process. This work has inspired partnerships with organizations in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora within the United States.

Activities and Initiatives:

Water point for current residents of Zorange. March 2011. Photo credit: Dan Weissman

Visiting the VivaRio biodigestor and water purification facility. March 2011. Photo Credit: Dan Weissman
  • Collaboration with, and support of, Konbit for Haiti, an organization that seeks to consolidate and direct the resources of the diaspora to the benefit of local Haitian communities, not just individuals.
  • Participation in a joint team from MIT School of Architecture + Planning (SA+P) and Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) that is actively advising on the development of the Exemplar Community in Zorange and has published a document entitled Designing Process to guide this work. Key parts of this proposal include connecting this new community to the fabric of existing communities in Port au Prince; fostering and sustainably harnessing the natural systems of the site for food, water, and energy to maintain a level of autonomy from centralized infrastructures; and integrating social services and job creation with physical design. In June 2011 the core team traveled to Port-au-Prince to present this holistic vision to both Haitian President Michel Martelly and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

  • Clearly, many Haitians are in dire need of adequate shelter in short order. However, long-term sustainable community building requires careful design, planning and ongoing engagement. The MIT+GSD proposal seeks to facilitate the balance between these two seemingly conflicting necessities, while fostering the creation of jobs, infrastructures, and social services in concert with home building in a process that may ultimately be employed across the Port-au-Prince region, and all of Haiti. This work is ongoing, and has also been generously supported by Adele Santos (Dean, MIT SA+P).

  • Stemming from an interest in obtaining detailed maps of post-earthquake Port au Prince, CoLab staff and affiliates initiated a partnership with the MIT Geospatial Data Center to explore the transformative potential of technological infrastructure and community information systems in community development practices. This partnership served as the basis for the IAP 2011 course ESD.937 that was attended by four DUSP students selected in part because of their commitment to CoLab’s Haiti projects.

  • As part of an initiative supported by Oxfam America, a team was formed in the Spring of 2010 to identify potential partner communities and to develop a set of proposals for long-term involvement in the planning and reconstruction of these communities. After identifying potential partners in the communities of Martissant and Belair the team created a long-term plan for collaboration in the areas of mapping and physical planning, housing reconstruction, job creation through rubble recycling, and development of innovative and accessible housing finance mechanisms. A key component of each of these projects will be assistance with local capacity building to ensure that Haitians themselves can manage, sustain, propel and modify the work. Potential partners in this work include: FOKAL, local organizations affiliated with the PRODEPUR program, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), and Viva Rio. Fundraising for these projects is ongoing.

Opportunities for Participation:

As these diverse initiatives continue in support of Haiti’s reconstruction and future development CoLab welcomes the participation of students and faculty with related interests and experiences.

MIT+GSD Team in Haiti.  From left:  Phil Thompson, Christian Werthmann, Larry Sass, Anya Brickman Raredon, Dan Weissman

    Faculty Affiliate: 

    Phil Thompson


    Anya Brickman Raredon