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Building with Bamboo - AA's Haiti Visiting School Update

G&T is proud to support the Architectural Association’s (AA) Haiti Visiting School for the second year running. The school was set up as an annual programme following the catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. Following the recent hurricane that struck the island the programme has extended their summer programme for an extra month. This will allow them to build the structure of the prototype house and also run a series of short workshops to retrofit people’s homes following the hurricane, leaving behind a legacy that will help Haitians rebuild their communities.

Its aim was to introduce new methods and innovative materials into the construction industry, teaching the next generation of Haitian architects alongside students and designers from across the world about the importance of finding lightweight, durable and sustainable resources. Working in partnership with the AA and the programme’s director, John Naylor, G&T is looking forward to helping another class of Haitian architects look to the future of building and construction innovation. Read on to find out more about the programme… 

Haiti Visiting School
School is in session

The AA was originally formed in 1847 and is the UK’s oldest school of architecture. As an extension of the Association’s ‘unit system’ the Haiti Visiting School embodies the programme’s objectives of Education, Reforestation, Infrastructure and Construction and will this year be extended from the previous two week workshop into a fully structured education programme which will come to an end this summer.

An estimated three million people were affected by the earthquake, with one million people left homeless and 250,000 buildings destroyed. Yet one month later an earthquake 500 times more powerful hit central Chile, resulting in the deaths of 525. This was a disaster of Haiti’s lack of lightweight building materials, working practices and construction, not nature. The devastation was increased by the trend in the Haitian construction industry to use concrete blocks rather than more lightweight materials. The programme was set up to provide support and introduce innovative building methods using alternative resources and more sustainable materials such as bamboo.

Haiti Visiting School 2016
School on the road!

The importance of bamboo in Haiti’s history can be traced back to the 1950s, where this strong but flexible plant was introduced as a means of restoring the ecology with the potential to be a cheaper alternative building material during tough economic conditions. Bamboo can grow up to one meter a day, reaching heights of up to 30 meters tall if left uncut. Not only is this lightweight material naturally adapted for construction but it also absorbs twice as much carbon as trees, allowing the community to earn money from growing it as part of the worldwide drive to curb carbon emissions. The students taking part in the programme not only learn about bamboo’s uses in the built environment but also develop their own understanding of the material, designing new uses for it and new products, which if successful, will help boost the value of bamboo in the recovering Haitian economy.

In 2015 G&T collaborated with the Haitian Visiting School programme director, John Naylor, to introduce the ‘G&T Award for Determination’, which recognises one student each year who has overcome challenging circumstances in order to participate in the course. G&T is proud to have once again presented the award at the end of programme, where the winner for 2016 was Elysee Morancy, a carpenter with the FOKAL Gingerbread Preservation Trust.

Elysee With The Award
Elysee Morancy, G&T Award for Determination 2016 Winner
“Once again we are grateful for the support and extremely thankful for the additional enthusiasm in organising the ‘Award for Determination’. In a country with such a rich architectural heritage as Haiti, having Gardiner & Theobald providing this attention adds a great deal to the classroom culture for all of us and means an incredible amount personally to the recipient.”

John Naylor, Programme Director

Haiti Visiting School
Haiti Visiting School 2016

Want to find out more about the Haiti Visiting School? Visit their website: or follow the programme on Instagram: @aahaitivs.

Keep up to date on the programme by following us on twitter @gt_llp.

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