Terra Nova Ayiti

Florian Strausse IFLA ZVI MILLER PRIZE 

Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti has to face big challenges over the next decades. New homes are needed for the many people who have lost theirs due to the excruciating earthquake in January 2010. But also the rapid growth of the Haitian Population, mainly concentrated on the metropolitan region of Port au Prince, raises the need for further residential development. Nearly all Haiti is deforested. The resulting high risk of landslides concentrates all thoughts on new development on the few plains of the country. But these plains are highly affected by the periodically returning hurricanes and flood events. Finally these plains are the most fertile areas of the mountainous country and therefore the only chance to get emancipated from food imports.

Port-au-Prince, the countries capital is located in the “Cul de Sac Plain”, once the most productive agricultural area in the former French colonies. Today most of the agriculture in the plain lies fallow. Landslides, earthquakes, liquefying soils and devastating flood events struck Port-au-Prince since centuries. Especially the sprawling northern settlements in the Plain are highly exposed to soil liquefaction and flooding.

As the pressure on the government to create new homes is rising, there are first residential and industrial project being developed in and around Zoranjé, a former social housing project in the north western Plain. The current practice, to elevate the ground level in the plain by 1.5 meter through dumping and compacting gravel arises several questions. Is this raise enough to protect the inhabitants from flooding and liquefying? Can there anything be grown on the compacted foundation which would give the inhabitants the opportunity for small scale urban agriculture?

From this starting Point, “Terra nova Ayiti” proposes several landscape interventions in the vulnerable “Plain de Cul-de-Sac”. The different Elements like Biodrainage Strips and irrigation channels with riparian vegetation are simple and proofed agricultural techniques which were not only cheap but easy to apply. The interaction of these elements decreases the risk of flooding and soil liquefaction, and increases meanwhile the productivity of agriculture and biodiversity over the upcoming decades. The design of a landscape, which can be both urban – with an improved resilience - and agricultural – with a high productivity – takes into account that the future of Haiti, and especially of the Cul-de-Sac plain is still uncertain. “Terra Nova Ayiti” imagines a resilient framework of Landscape Infrastructures, buffering extreme rainfall events and storm surges, stabilizing the weak soil, creating habitats and raising the agricultural yield. The proposal does not draw a picturesque design of one possible future situation in the plain, but a system, that is flexible enough to absorb all different thinkable scenarios. 

Xsection Issue Three 2013/14 Placemaking