New Homes to Raise a Nation: The United Nations, American Cooperativists, and the “Master Plan” to Renovate Haiti’s Capital City, Port-au-Prince

Friday, January 2, 2015: 4:10 PM
Liberty Suite 4 (Sheraton New York)
Adam M. Silvia, Florida International University
Between President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and the United Nations' "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," both the US and the UN had demarcated a minimum standard of living that included a respectable home. In the 1970s, American, Haitian, and UN planners tried to uphold these standards in a "master plan" to renovate Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, and resolve the city's impoverished residential sprawl. However, the ways and means to realize such a standard, i.e. urban renewal, with its "raze and rebuild" mentality, had already proven inadequate, evident in the decision to demolish the "modern" Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis in 1972. Haiti's "master planners," a multinational team that included Haitian artists and architects, American cooperativists, and Frenchmen and Turks employed by the UN, thus looked not to urban renewal to make a modern city with modern homes, but to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, to the garden city movement and regionalism. They also turned to "anti-modernist" ideas in the United States, such as preservationism. The result was an extremely ambitious plan that mixed and matched pre-modernist, early-modernist, post-modernist, and uniquely Haitian ideas about urban space and the home to try to achieve the equally ambitious standards that the US and the UN associated with modernity.
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