About this project
We just uploaded a new video! For more of the Konbit story, visit our first video here:
Konbit Shelter is building creative, safe, beautiful, and sustainable homes for Haitian families in the continuing aftermath of the earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Sandy.
We believe that beauty, soulfulness, and innovation have a place in the reconstruction of communities after a disaster.
In January 2013, we will begin our third construction, a house for Avelia Louis and her family, which includes three (insanely adorable!) kids. Part of an ongoing relationship between a small group of artists, architects, engineers and builders in the United States, and small rural village in Haiti, this house will bring into fruition all of the knowledge and insights that have been gathered over the past two years of building together with residents of Cormiers.
We started with the idea that artists might have something distinct and powerful to contribute to the rebuilding process, and we have created two unique structures -- a community center, and a one family home, out of this philosophy.
With this third construction, we will be using earth-bag architectural techniques for their resilience against natural disasters of all kinds, and reliance on locally available resources. The building process will continue the skill-share relationship that has grown up around our previous constructions, and, in the process, bring much needed jobs to people in the village. The home that we create together with Avelia, will be an inventive, light-filled, craftsmanly construction that will involve the sculptors, masons, carpenters, and other interested folks of Cormiers.
Hand Carved windows and awnings, high ceilings, and unique architectural details like welded barrel frame windows and radial ceiling scaffoldings are what makes these houses artist collaborations. Drawing on, and adapting the tradition of earth-bag and super-adobe building is what makes these houses a step in the evolution of sustainable earth bag technology, tailored specifically to Haiti's tropical climate.
At the end of this third construction, an illustrated booklet will be created in Creole and English, to share with people in Haiti, and internationally, the techniques and adaptations that have been accrued through our work.
Our funding will go primarily toward buying materials and employing our build crew in Cormiers, and secondarily to getting the Konbit team organized and out there. Plus maybe 5 bucks to buy extra glitter for the art workshops at the community center to celebrate when we’re all done....
It’s been a big effort that so many people have been a part of in large and small ways. We’d love to have you on board for this next leg of the journey.
Risks and challenges
Konbit Shelter began with the idea of sharing the style of earth-bag dome architecture designed and engineered by Iranian born architect Nadir Khalili, who spent the last 20 years of his life tackling the problem of housing for vulnerable populations around the world.
Our idea has been to harness our resources and creativity to share a body of knowledge that will be useful to families across the region in post-earthquake rebuilding. Aware of the pitfalls of dependency often created by international aid programs, we strive to create a situation in which we can cross pollinate our ideas with local ingenuity, customs, and building styles -- ultimately leading to a hybrid architecture which takes the best of these available building systems, and creates something safe, beautiful and affordable, that Haitian families can construct on their own, without the need of outside assistance or resources.
One of the biggest technical challenges to this goal has been the cost of building materials. In Leogane Haiti, $8 gets you one bag of cement, while $7-10 is commonly a days wage. In community meetings, when we have asked what works and what doesn’t about the structures, people have said that the buildings are great houses and community spaces, light-filled and cool year round, but that despite utilizing a style developed for it’s affordability, these homes are still out of the economic reach of a rural family.
Our goal in building this third house is to tackle this challenge head on by looking into other styles of earth-bag building that utilize less cement, and hew more closely to local housing styles, while continuing our commitment to making bright, inventive structures that incorporate local craftsmanship and creativity.
We will start making plans for another structure, and laying the groundwork for continuing on this coming spring and fall.
Not really. Each structure that Konbit build is a benefit to the community in multiple ways. First: we are constructing seriously sturdy homes. We have seen many plywood shacks, and many houses built of the same cinderblock that collapsed during the earthquake being built in the last couple of years. We want to do something different, and build houses in a style that, while it is energy intensive, is made to last. Second: jobs. These houses are hard work to build, and we are able to employ many people in the process. This has been an important boon to the community of Cormiers. Third: creativity. Each house is a labor of love, is created with it’s own unique details, and employs the skills of many dedicated craftspeople in the area. We are not an NGO creating a quick fix. We are a long-term community focused effort, bringing our heart and soul into everything we do, and this requires resources.
Konbit is a wonderful Haitian word for when people come together to help each other out. Like a barn-raising, or a cooperative effort to collect the harvest of one farmer when it’s too much for his family to do alone. We love this word and want to use it in an international context, for this moment, right now, when people of the world come together to help their neighbors in Haiti rebuild after devastation.
We have made a printable gift certificate, just download it of of our updates page, or contact us to email you a copy.
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