Monthly Archives: November 2012

Re-Vegetation Haiti – What Can LA offer?

Deforestation in Haiti is a severe environmental problem. In 1923, over 60% of Haiti’s land was forested; by 2006, less than 2% was. Haiti unfortunately holds the tile of being the poorest country in the western hemisphere. This poverty can be directly related to the condition of Haiti’s environment. Additionally the absence of vegetation places Haiti at risk to natural disaster, such as in  2004 when Hurricane Jeanne tore through the island nation leaving over 3000 dead in its wake. A main casualty factor being landslides.

Satellite image showing deforestation in Haiti. This image depicts the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right). [Source NASA]

In January 2012, Trees, Water & People partnered with Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), Positive Legacy, and Jam Cruise passengers to plant thousands of fruit trees in northern Haiti using SOIL’s EcoSan compost (human manure, aka “humanure”). These citrus trees have matured and are now being planted. But, local community organizations and farmers’ cooperatives have asked us to do even more to help make the mountainsides of Haiti green with trees again.

YouTube Preview Image

They envision planting 10,000 more seedlings, hosting tree-planting days, and creating an agricultural education center that can host EcoSan workshops, agricultural exchanges, and research. The tree seedlings planted through this effort will be sold at an affordable, subsidized rate to local farmers and cooperatives who will then plant them in the mountains of northern Haiti

Projects of this nature are fundamental in elevating the poverty conditions in Haiti. They also raise a large issue. This being that Haiti has a vast journey to recovery, and that introduction of new housing stock only does not lead to a sustainable future.

Is there an opening for the Landscape Architecture community to become involved, contributing a skill set to help create a revitalized landscape for Haiti, one that is needed for economic recovery in this devastated country?

There needs to be great consideration given to the landscape or environmental conditions of Haiti. Without such planing exposes the nation to avoidable danger in the form of natural disaster. An example of a landscape architect addressing issues of this nature is Elizabeth Mossop with her work on how landscape architects can protect New Orleans. With notable projects such as Bayou Bienvenue where she calls for the restoration of critical wetland forests that once protected the city

Elizabeth Mossop is a landscape architect addressing issues such as natural systems as protect from storm events. Image credit: Spackman Mossop + Michaels

There should also be consideration given to understanding long-term infrastructural requirements and responding planing undertaken, so that new communities do not find themselves without basic provisions. These basic provisions are usually strongly landscape related, consider food and water. This is: agriculture and productive land, and natural systems catching, filtering and cleaning water.

These are some avenues that landscape architecture community help can address in humanitarian situations such as Haiti. There are many opportunities for landscape architects to be involved in humanitarian situation of this nature.

Further reading:

To make a donation to this project please visit

Public Open Space as Emergency Shelter – China

Open Space as Emergency Shelter in China (Yuan Capital Wall Park, Beijing)

China has a history of using public open space as emergency shelters. These parks provide independent infrastructure and services such as water, sanitation and electricity. Citys such as Beijing have dozens of shelters all across the city that can provide tenting areas, fresh water and medical attention. The shelters are designed for the public in case of earthquakes, epidemic diseases, flooding, fire and other situations.

Civil emergencies are inevitable events. Landscape architects through planning and design can prepare cities for times of disaster. Approaching planning and design of open space as emergency refuge is an established field in China and Japan. Analyses of these spaces can inform the planning and design of open public space in other cities and communities around the world. Improving access and awareness of ‘safe’ open space with installation of independent infrastructure and supplies at key locations as well as ground improvement techniques enables effective response to emergency events. This aims to improve function and efficiency during the phases of emergency events, ultimately resulting in the saving of human life and alleviation of suffering.

I feel there is opportunity for landscape architects to familiarise with the phases of disaster events and their relationship to open space.

Text by: Ryan James Aldrich

Interesting links for further reading: