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.

"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: Is Haiti a Laboratory for New Urbanists? What the Country Really Needs Is Old Urbanism

Comments

Comments

Support Haiti's Agriculture and Local Visions

Haiti's economy should solely be managed in accordance with the will of the Haitian people- not by outside powers or professionals who think they "know what is best" for Haiti.

Here are two worthwhile stories you may like to read-

Benefit Haitian Economy by Buying Haitian Rice
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2010/04/07-12

Where's the Haiti Bound Money Going?
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/08-4

What a foolish article.

What a foolish article. This is the problem with Planning today...everybody has to put something in a box, or give it a fancy name.

Haiti can decentralize and still develop with New Urbanist principles. Rather than have one large city of 3 million (which was way to big based on Port-au-Prince's geography and infrastructure could handle).......how about 4 cities in different regions of the country (north, central, Port-au-Prince and one in the south) with the population distributed evenly? What, you can't do New Urbanism in a city of about 1 million people? I've seen New Urbanist design used in cities far smaller than that.This way not all of the country's poor are forced into slums in one city that can't manage that many people. This also makes sense so that during the next major disaster (hurricane or quake) - which we know will happen sometime in the future - that not all of the rebuilding that will be done will get wiped out all at once.

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