An Architect's Journey into Haiti

Andres Duany's housing plan for Haiti
Andres Duany's housing plan for Haiti

Shortly after the devastating earthquake struck Port-Au-Prince, noted architect pioneer Andres Duany flew to Haiti with plans for building durable, affordable housing in the shattered country.

Duany, a celebrated archtitect who has masterplanned whole towns and claims to have written the definitive book on "smart growth" had big plans. He was going to put in gorgeous cross-ventilated windows and porches. He was going to give the privacy of master bedrooms to families that had only known poverty. And once he arrived in Haiti, he saw his plans were nearly entirely wrong.

"I came with a confidence I should not have had," he told us.

He needed to put in fewer windows, even in the hot Haitian climate, because some folk traditions make windows the object of mistrust. He needed to rethink porches, because some families consider it unkind to eat in front of their houses when starving neighbors walk by on the street. And he needed to think less about rooms and more about beds--cramming in as many as would fit.

Yesterday, Duany debuted his design for prefab housing to go up in Haiti's cities and countryside after the immediate crisis fades. It is, by his count, the fourth or fifth pass he took at the designs.

Originally published