Bois Jalousie and Petion-Ville

The picture below shows the high-end Rivoli building of Petion-Ville, in contrast with Bois-Jalousie… I had seen this type of contrast before from pictures in Brazil… kind of surreal to see it happen in your own country…

I was in Petion-Ville this past Saturday morning and looking at Bois Jalousie with all its newly painted walls, was ironically far more interesting than looking at traffic, walled-off restaurants and super-markets in Petion-Ville.  (more coming soon) rivoli bois jalousie

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Cap-Haitien & Milot, North, Haiti

From now I make it a point of discovering at least one new place in Haiti every time I go. The last place I visited was the city of Cap-Haitien as well as the National Historic Park in Milot which includes the Palais Sans-souci and the famous Unesco Wolrd Heritage site: the Citadelle Laferrière.

Getting to the city was quite a feat: once you go through the city of Gonaives, the road can be quite tedious, especially when on the slopes of the morne Pilboro a bit before Cap-Haitien.What I always try to reflect on is how a traveler goes through places and from a point A to a point B in Haiti, and most importantly the experience he or she will remember.

For my experience, the lack of road signs made the travel quite frustrating. Yes asking locals and getting lost can be part of the experience, but at what point does the lack of touristic infrastructure and guidance can be too much? With the Carnival being now displaced more often to Haiti’s second largest city (that is Cap-Haitien) I hope there will be more awareness and actions on how we think about our point of entries, road signs, and other circulation tools and infrastructure.

On a better note, the Citadelle Laferrière was a delight to visit.

“The Citadelle Laferrière or, Citadelle Henry Christophe, or simply the Citadelle (in English, spelled Citadel), is a large mountaintop fortress in northern Haiti, approximately 17 miles (27 km) south of the city of Cap-Haïtien and five miles (8 km) uphill from the town of Milot. It is the largest fortress in the Americas and was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site in 1982—along with the nearby Sans-Souci Palace. The mountaintop fortress has itself become an icon of Haiti. The Citadel was built byHenri Christophe, a key leader during the Haitian slave rebellion, after Haiti gained independence from France at the beginning of the 19th century.”

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In other words, it’s our most important architectural heritage. From Milot, there is a clear touristic point of entry for informations, paying fees for access the monument, buying souvenirs (whose authenticity were questionable I am sorry to say) and partnering with a guide. For our greatest pleasure and thirst for history learning, we first wandered in the Palais Sans-Souci where it is said that the King Henri-Christophe, who ordered the construction of these monuments, took his own life away. Then we started going up the trail on horses.

I must admit my heart began to pound in my chest getting there. I was about to see the biggest most important monument in Haiti, built by slaves who defeated the French Empire in the 19th century! The first glimpse didn’t disappoint: the building stands tall and proud, strangely ressembling the prow of a ship on a calm sea, protecting and watching out for the country. The more I approached, the more I became aware of the scale of this symbol: 20 000 workers helped build it.

All images of the property of Isabelle Alice Jolicoeur.

First glimpse of the Citadelle.

Getting into the monument, we are guided through the different quarters and being informed of the hundreds of cannons and strategic design. What I was most impressed of (apart from the facts I mentioned above) was the integrated cooling system which allowed water from the top of the mountain to flow into gutters thus lowering the temperature all the way to the Palais Sans-souci (8km downhill).

As I was standing on the highest point in the Citadelle, more than the 900m separating me from the ground, I was overwhelmed by the two-centuries-old splendor and testimony of our heritage.

Isabelle A. Jolicoeur

08/08/2013

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For more images, please visit the Okap gallery here.

Pa bliye Nazon!

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On April 5 2013, Le Nouvelliste published images of the first highway to be built in the country. This highway will only be five minutes away from my house, and I could probably see it clearly from my hilly neighborhood… if it wasn’t for a tent community that’s overtaken the side of the hill.

Most people who come from the airport drive through Nazon (also known as Martin-Luther King) to reach other places in the city. Government officials inevitably drive through Nazon to reach the National Palace, Ministries and other offices. Yet this arterial road begins with the view of tarps sadly perched on the side of Morne Sylvio Cator.

More coming soon

Housing Without Developers

Originally posted on {FAVEL issues}:

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Last week Studio X Mumbai held a day long workshop provocatively titled “Housing without Developers”. As elaborated on their website, the workshop tried to challenge the seeming inevitability of market based solutions to problems that are themselves closely associated with the privatization of housing markets. The participants in the workshop discussed how the development of slum housing in India and public housing in the west challenges the accepted norms of market based solutions. This blog post does not sum up the many interesting points made by the housing activists, planners and academics at the workshop, but discusses a couple of concepts that got me thinking about housing and policy in the city.

Aspiration:

Its often argued that slum redevelopment schemes in Mumbai succeed as slum dwellers themselves “aspire” to live in apartments and are ashamed of the slums that they inhabit. Asher Ghertner terms this “Aesthetic Govermentality”. Liza…

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Bois Jalousie: Ayiti Ap Vanse

When projects are politicized:

Fairly disappointed by the missed opportunity to promote the infrastructural work also being done in Bois Jalousie. For this government to sell its image well, perhaps they must take into consideration the interpretation of the Bois Jalousie project. Unfortunately many people are arrested by the idea of painting over chaos. The government could have used this promotional video to show the engineering work being done in concert with the painting. It would have served better than allocating so much time to people praising Martelly-Lamothe.

Urbanism in Haiti

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Architecture for Humanity in Port-au-Prince has a series of monthly lectures to which they invite professionals in the architecture and construction industry in Haiti. Those events are called “Meet and Greet”. For the April Meet and Greet, the theme of the lecture was “Urbanism in Haiti” and Anya Brickman Raredon, an OXFAM employee made a presentation on three projects. Those projects were: first a housing development in Zoranje (highly problematic housing compound North of Port-au-Prince), another development project in Gressier, which had problems of land tenure, and finally another development project to which Oxfam was approached by a community looking to improve their livelihood. The take-away from Anya’s talk was that collaboration is important for the sustainability of housing projects. This talk was followed by a very heated discussion. The problem of housing is a major concern in Haiti and it has been highlighted after the earthquake. Building houses for the displaced also meant tackling an issue that has been dismissed over the last decades: providing descent houses for the high percentage of less fortunate people of Haiti. In the end, Haitian architects in attendance expressed their frustration with the development projects that do not take into account various site conditions that locals are well aware of. The discussion was dominated by the question of relationships between donors, the Haitian government, professionals, and under-served “clients” (the poor population).

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