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UM architecture students help plan rebuilding of Port-au-Prince

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UM architecture students help plan rebuilding of Port-au-Prince Empty UM architecture students help plan rebuilding of Port-au-Prince

Message  Sasaye Dim 21 Aoû 2011 - 22:43

UM architecture students help plan rebuilding of Port-au-Prince

By Tania Valdemoro Longest
The Miami Herald

At the beginning of the summer, faculty from the University of Miami’s School of Architecture presented a challenge to 12 architecture students from UM and two Haitian universities.
The goal: to design two different city blocks in central Port-au-Prince, whose buildings and infrastructure had been damaged by a crippling earthquake in January 2010.

The exercise is an extension of a real-life problem that architects, planners, residents and others are trying to solve.

Last year, the Haitian government turned to The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, established by Britain’s Prince Charles in 1986, to develop a plan to rebuild the historic center of Port-au-Prince. In turn, the foundation hired the Coral Gables-based architecture firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk to work with it.

After a series of meetings, known as a charettes, in Port-au-Prince, the two groups crafted a master plan with input from developers, Haitian government officials and residents.

The purpose of the plan is to offer a better version of the city with medium-rise, mixed-use buildings. Certain structures would be preserved, while new ones would be constructed using existing styles, materials and methods.

Andres Duany, a principal at Duany Plater-Zyberk, gave faculty a presentation of the project, said Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the UM School of Architecture, and Duany’s partner. One of the faculty then suggested that it would be a good design challenge for students, she said.

Sam Roche, a lecturer, and Rachel Valbrun, an adjunct professor, then set out to establish connections with Haitian universities so they would be part of the project, known as a studio. Ultimately, four architecture students from Université d’Etat d’Haiti and four from Université Quisqueya — both based in Port-au-Prince — joined four UM students at the school’s Coral Gables campus.

“It’s an attempt to take a plan that was proposed and apply it to two city blocks,” Roche said.

The two blocks contain two different design prototypes: a block known as an “urban village,” and a block with institutional buildings, such as government ministries.

The idea behind the urban village prototype is to add utilities for power, water and sewage on a city block without tearing up the streets to do it. “We put the utilities in the middle of each block and make sure they serve the block,” Roche said.

Surrounding the utilities are parking for residents and then mid-rise, mixed-use buildings that go to the edge of the street, he added.

“We looked at downtown Port-au-Prince and saw there was one place where these two blocks were next to one another. We decided to design these two blocks to create a representative sample,” Roche said.

In the first half of the summer semester, the four UM students built a site model of the two blocks and researched grid planning in three cities: Coral Gables, New Orleans and Port-au-Prince. New Orleans was laid out in the same French grid as Port-au-Prince, Roche said.

In the second half of the semester, all the students were at UM’s Coral Gables campus, designing the architectural plan for the two city blocks.

“We drew a plan of those two blocks that showed buildings that would be preserved,” Roche said. “We got drawings of existing conditions.”

Each student was ultimately responsible for different sites within the two blocks. There was an existing building and a new building they were going to design, he said.

The students completed their designs several weeks ago and presented them to faculty, visiting critics and others on Aug. 3.

The plans are being redrawn so they can be collated into a book. Copies of the book will be given to the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, Duany Plater-Zyberk and the Haitian government, said Professor Valbrun.


© 2011 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

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