Charrette provides venue for collaborative effort

School of Architecture is working with the Haitian government to reconstruct Haiti. Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Architecture School a final meeting was held with delegates from all facets of Haiti's reconstruction. Jessica Hodder // The Miami Hurricane

The UM School of Architecture hosted a five-day workshop this past weekend to help suggest ideas for rebuilding Haiti after the destructive earthquake in January.

It all began when the Haitian government’s commission for reconstruction asked UM’s School of Architecture to help them with post-earthquake rebuilding plans. The result was an overwhelming response to help.

Ultimately, it was decided that the best way to hear everyone’s ideas and make the most of the unique situation was to hold a “Charrette.”

A Charrette is a collaborative effort that integrates ideas from many areas to achieve the best results for one common vision.

UM faculty and students participated from many disciplines such as the School of Architecture and the College of Engineering. Joining these UM participants were architects, economists, engineers, city planners and simply anyone else who wanted to lend a helping hand from all over the United States as well as participants from Haiti.

All of the participants of the Charrette were volunteers and helped purchase plane tickets for members from Haiti’s post-earthquake teams.

Individuals from the Haitian front included United Nations ambassador Leslie Voltaire.

“The mission was to illustrate the vision of the plan that will by presented in New York by the Haitian government. I think we’ve succeeded in a way that will allow us to go from city to city and get input from populations and help rebuild our country after the earthquake,” Voltaire said.

The final presentation of the workshop was revealed Sunday afternoon at the Glasgow Auditorium by Dean of the School of Architecture and Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.

“The presentation was not supposed to be a final solution or plan, instead illustrations and ideas to provide broader goals and strategies to be discussed by the Haitian government who will make the final decision,” Plater-Zyberk said.

In the final presentation, the efforts of all groups were incorporated in a showcase full of possible sketches and ideas for them to take back to Haiti.

Included were ideas to possibly grow economies in new rural areas that the Haitian people have retreated to.

The Charrette highlighted the already strong Haitian culture and expose it to make the country’s cultural wealth better known. Activities such as zip lining and SCUBA diving, as well as cultural characteristics such as the Haitian architecture and art were the focus of the possible solutions in order to strengthen the Haitian community and the tourism industry.

Sonia Chao, director of the Center for Urban and Community Design and a research associate professor, saw this as a unique opportunity for many architecture students.

Jessica Hodder // The Miami Hurricane

“It gave them an opportunity to understand the roles architects play in civic life as leaders. Through this experience they can realize that they can create change in a community and actively engage in outreach through their area of study,” Chao said.

Several different plans were also drawn up as alternative, temporary housing for displaced Haitian residents called “starter shelters.” Plater-Zyberk uses the term in order to provide hope for additions to the shelters as the rebuilding process continues instead of the possibility of the shelters remaining as temporary housing.

The possible plans are being taken back to Haiti to be discussed and their final decisions will be presented in New York at the end of this month.

“It was a great experience and now we plan to stay as involved as possible and begin working on funding to help out our Haitian neighbors,” Chao said.

Colleen Dourney may be contacted at