Haiti Needs Old Urbanism, Not New

Plans for rebuilding Haiti have a strikingly New Urbanist tinge. But some say Haiti's economic situation isn't ready for a New Urbanist approach.
April 8, 2010, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

"There are many good reasons why Haiti should turn its back on Port-au-Prince: It's destroyed; it straddles a major faultline; it is filled with slums offering few opportunities to residents, and they would only get bigger if left unchecked. But is depopulation the answer? And is a New Urbanist approach (as Ouroussoff dubs it) appropriate for Haiti? I doubt it.

For one thing, it is impossible to separate the future growth of Haiti's cities from the future path of its economy. Right now, "our economic advantage is in agriculture and tourism, and these are by nature decentralized," argued Leslie Voltaire, an urban planner and a special envoy for Haiti to the United Nations. New Urbanism is a reaction against suburban-driven sprawl--the landscape created during the peak of American industrialization. New Urbanism can be seen as an attempt to (re)create a denser urban form better suited to our post-industrial economy of ideas--one in which a laptop and Wi-Fi are the only factory you need."

But, as Fast Company's Greg Lindsay writes, that strategy works for post-industrial economies, not pre-industrial economies like Haiti's.

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 in Fast Company
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email