Haiti is still struggling to rebuild its infrastructure three years after being struck by a devastating earthquake. The nation is also challenged by deforestation and a workforce that lacks skill and resources, so it is looking towards towards green architecture to help create shelters. Foster + Partners and the Architectural Association have awarded AA Diploma student John Naylor with the 2013 Foster + Partners Prize for his “Bamboo Lakou” project, which proposes a series of earthquake-resistant structures that shift the construction sector away from energy-intensive materials such as concrete while aiding in rehabilitating vegetation.
In Haiti, the lack of timber has led to concrete being the construction material of choice. Naylor believes that bamboo can provide a strong and inexpensive alternative to concrete walls and beams. The “Lakou” house is designed to be made from sustainably sourced bamboo and it’s modeled after the existing layout of courtyard buildings in the country. The proposal incorporates seismically sound building techniques, and it includes provisions for teaching these building skills to the public.
“This technical strategy forms an integral part of making a new timber and bamboo urbanism possible in Haiti. Through initially encouraging the physical use of bamboo in the Haitian construction sector at the building scale, the material properties of bamboo provide design opportunities to provide resilience to hurricanes and earthquakes, and affords an assembly logic which intends to communicate a parallel understanding of bamboo’s application beyond the building site. This rematerialisation of a construction industry and subsequent demand, aims to engender bamboo growth in Haiti, a material with wider ecological benefits and lay the foundations of a new biodiverse dynamic Port au Prince, Sylvo-Cité.” says Naylor.
Naylor’s project has the potential to encourage local economies, aid with landscape management, and assist in developing more resilient infrastructure. “In John Naylor’s project we see how social and environmental goals can be complementary. We hope very much that the debate this prize generates will encourage students to address the themes of sustainability and infrastructure, which are of increasing relevance to architecture today.” remarked Mouzhan Majidi, Chief Executive of Foster + Partners.
With the aid of simple, robust design, Haiti and other seismically sensitive areas have the potential to quickly rebuild and maintain their towns and cities. Naylor sees the biggest challenge as instructing a workforce accustomed to an established building practice. However, if adopted, his project has the possibility to radically transform the urban areas of Haiti.