"Make no little plans...they have no magic to stir men's blood."
Daniel Burnham

Monday, January 18, 2010

Can Architects and Urban Planners Shine Amidst the Chaos?

HAITI…One single topic that has dominated the headlines the past week, so many people displaced, so many homes and businesses destroyed, but what now. I know by this point in time a lot of people are tired of hearing about the depressing news, the death toll rises by the minute, peace-keepers and volunteers are under more and more stress as the hours tick by. But where do us as students and professionals of architecture, city planning, and urbanism fit in with the big picture down in Haiti.

Hundreds of thousands of buildings have been destroyed, the complete urban fabric of Port au Prince has been uprooted, and we ask again where that leaves us. Thousands of well meaning volunteers are flocking to Haiti this very week and more throughout the weeks to come. Yet as time goes by that will dwindle to merely a trickle of volunteers, over time just a few inconsistent tourists, missionaries and U.N. peacekeepers will be present, and Haiti, will plunge from the spotlight to the darkness that they have known for years.

At the time when they need Architects, Designers, and Planners to step in the world will have stopped watching.

There must be some way to encourage a more humane way for city design to enable the infrastructure and the government to not be destroyed even in such an unexpected calamity as the recent earth quake. The fact is that the city of Port au Prince has been growing out of control. Recent estimates, according to CNN reports, are that there were over three million people living in the city. This population has been allowed to grow, largely unchecked and uncontrolled, sprawling complexes of simple shanties dot the landscape. These shanties, built with whatever supplies a family can gather, were no where near enough to with stand a minor earthquake, let alone one as strong the recent one. Without a plan for the infrastructure to grow with the population, it the city was at the worst possible position for a disaster of this magnitude. While the rubble will be cleared, there must be a plan in place to look at the long term future of this once vibrant city.

Can we as Architects, Designers, and Planners, create a scheme for the growth and revitalization of Haiti? The clock is ticking, someone needs to answer the call.


Photograph Courtesy of CNN - http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/01/16/haiti.connections/index.html

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