Sylvo-Cité Project: Background


Haiti is a country in the Caribbean. It occupies the Western third of the Island of Hispaniola along with the Dominican Republic on the Eastern side. Haiti has a population of 10.5 million with 10% living in the Capital Port au Prince. It is by far the poorest country in the Caribbean with a per capita GDP of $738, 1/12 of the GDP of her neighbour and sister of geography, climate and racial demography.

Haiti was originally a French colony, St Domingue, and the Dominican Republic was the Spanish.

In 1804 she gained Independence from France and was not just rich enough for France to keep her as a colony but rich enough to buy slaves from the newly created United State to the north. The

To raise foreign capital Haiti had been exploited for the export of her timber since colonial times, however this deforestation for western concessions sped up following Hurricane Hazel, in 1957. Following the transition to dictatorship that decade and as the population got poorer they began to cut down what little trees survived to create new agricultural land, and produce charcoal. The only source of fuel.

When Columbus discovered the Island it was a forest almost 100% of the Island was covered in trees. Today Haiti stands at 2% forested. The lack of trees has washed nutrients out of the soil. Heavy rains and hurricanes wash the top soil away making agriculture impossible. This also risks landslides following heavy rains and hurricanes as seen recently this year when 3 people died in port au Prince due to a landslide.

This project aims to use reforestation in Haiti, as the basis to create a new skilled labour sector, based on the preservation, cultivation and export of timber.

The objective is to bring together these industries in a city design for Haiti which cultivates studies and exports timber sustainably. Education in the timber industry will be central to this city and aims to generate new skills and respect for the use and value of timber, so much so that such a scheme can be easily replicated elsewhere in the country. As the Island of Hispaniola, on which Haiti occupies the western third, lies on a major fault line

By building a sustainable city showing the profitability of sustainable timber production, the skills associated with this will disseminate through the Haitian economy and act as a primer to national re-plantation, and redevelopment.

The past century saw the eradication of all but 2% of Haiti’s forests. This stopped Haitian self-dependence of fuel source at the same time creating a landscape devoid of topsoil limiting agriculture and destabilising the earth. As the value of this timber is in export I am taking advantage of the strategic location of Haiti at the crossroads of the Caribbean shipping route2. A consequence of replantation is increasing the absorbency and stability of the land. Therefore to maximise solutions I am locating the project North of Port au Prince on land slowly being washed into the Caribbean. This area is also bounded by areas with the most social problems and joblessness, in an attempt to embody as many solutions into the project as well these areas will provide initial sources of labour.

Dissemination from the project can be a blueprint to find ways to regenerate local economies as well as improving local ecologies in a sustainable way. Ecology and export are designed to employ and educate.

The project begins with looking at urban typologies where a forestry industry in the primer. A system of vocational education is then input into these typologies and this provides the basis of the new Port au Prince Forest City. The design of this new city is also provides the breeding ground to develop wooden seismic architecture. In the same way vernacular Haitian architecture used wood to protect against earthquakes, here this city can provide the breeding ground for the material and the skills to regenerate a contemporary seismic vernacular wooden architecture.

However this is never as simple as simple investing money. Preacher turned President Jean-Bertrand Aristide came to power in 1991 follow the popular support of many

After 6 years of relative stabilisation with the assistance of the United Nations peacekeeping force the UN’s role in the country was about to change. At the local time of 16:53 on 12th January 2010 an earthquake of 7.0 hit one of the most densly populated subburbs of the nations capital. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake. 250,000 residences, 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed, a million people homeless and 316,000 people dead. A third of the city’s population dead. In the context of London, the same as every person living South of the river dying.

Structure was no match for the quake. Haiti’s Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, along with their function, all destroyed. Among those killed were Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Joseph Serge Miot. The UN’s mission changed to distribute aid however this was also made difficult by the as the headquarters of the United Nations collapsed, killing many, as well as the Mission’s Chief.


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