Architects Without Borders: Before Architecture Can Help
We’re Seattle architects working on a new school project in Haiti, in a particularly underserved community. As part of the Architects Without Borders team, we itch to get started designing, but we realize that we live such a different life here we must know what it’s like living there, to work there, to go to school there. We don’t want to design a school for North America and plop it down in the middle of a different and unaccepting world. So as we learn, we begin to see that we have to back up, way up, to the point where the basics are not what we’re used to, they are survival: we have to understand such things as where the CLEAN water is going to come from, what to do with human wastes, how we can provide electrical power, how and by whom the school would get built, etc. As idealists, we think of municipal services providing water, not digging a well on site, away from contaminants; we think about composting toilets, but we have never cleaned one; we think of photovoltaic electric not realizing how much cheaper a generator and some gasoline is; we think the community will pitch in with their sweat equity, but we’re not working earning $7-12/day and having to decide whether to feed our family or build a school… First things first, and as we solve these problems, we’ll move on to designing a school.
Here is a great article about our experience: Haiti Rebuilding Effort – AWB