Soft Systems, High Grounds

ORGANIZATION NAME: MIT Urban Risk Lab

LOCATION: Haiti

SUMMARY: This project involves a prototypical system of disaster evacuation parks across the Caribbean country of Haiti for more than 5,000 sites of schools and markets as protective and preemptive economic infrastructures for disaster risk reduction and economic recovery against the dangers of hurricanes, severe floods, mudslides, and earthquakes.

PROBLEM SPACE: "Against extreme economic and ecologic dynamics of tropical urban life in Haiti, this project proposes open spaces distributed across extreme topographies and dynamic watersheds designed to address five challenging complexities:

Extreme Terrain: 80% of land in Haiti privately owned, and over 50% of the population lives in highly mountainous, poorly accessible areas, or downstream, in fertile yet floodable valley regions. Populations are unevenly distributed across a range of densities.

Construction Capacity: Up until 2010, Haiti did not have a national building code. Interventions must be simple, minimal, and scalable for training and new trades.

Purchasing Power: the average Haitian income is between 2$ and 3$ per day. Interventions must capitalize on people's livelihoods within construction techniques that are commensurate with cultures of maintenance to avoid inequity and strife.

Literacy and Legibility: nearly 50% of the population over 25 years old cannot read or write. Interventions must be easily legible, simple to understand, with highly graphic and visual methods referencing creole culture.

Youth Work Force: since more than 50% of the population is below 25 years old, interventions must work with youth organizations to develop and cultivate their potential through better access to education, training, and job markets."

SOLUTION: "The project is based in the intensely agricultural and urban region of the Artibonite River Valley of Haiti, a major agronomic area where more than 1 million people live. Using 9 prototypical sites at 9 different elevations with 9 different population densities, the range of prototypical evacuation parks range from the coastal level at 0.00m asl, to high altitude mountain ranges at 3,000m asl.

Associated with markets and schools in the river valley, a preliminary set of disaster evacuation parks are thus proposed to be developed as protective spaces against the threat of hurricanes, floods, and mudslides during the rainy season, while provide a buffer against drought and low water season. Through the synthetic design of ground access and accessibility, micro-elements such as lighting, pathways, and topography are combined with micro-infrastructures of plants and vegetation using local, construction techniques and creole craft to form dual purpose spaces for economic functions and ecologic services that grow over time.

From coast to mountain, city to countryside, the project aims to be applied in areas across 5 major watersheds and river basins of the country with a population totaling 9 million people."

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