See The Haiti Softhouse at the International African Arts Festival

June 24, 2010 2010 - articles, Culture, Travel & Heritage, Features

The Haiti SoftHouse will be at the International African Arts Festival from July 2 – 5 at Commodore Barry Park. This will give Brooklynites an opportunity to see the Haiti SoftHouse designed by local architects as a transitional housing solution to the challenge Haitians are facing with increasing hurricane threats.

The Haiti SoftHouse group, led by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon began a series of events to raise funds to match Deutsche Banks $50,000 contribution, and offset costs of the construction of hundreds of units.

“IAAF has for 39 years been a starting point for innovative initiatives and supporting Haiti and the Haiti Softhouse is in keeping with the festival’s mission as a social enterprise generator and a venue for commerce and entepreneurship focused on the African Diaspora,” stated Julia Shaw, one of the Festival’s organizers. “We welcome the opportunity to open our festival to the Haiti SoftHouse team and bring awareness of this critical time in Haiti.”

Brooklyn-based entrepreneur Atim Annette Oton, a designer, publisher of Calabar Magazine and major sponsor of IAAF for more than five years immediately saw an opportunity for – and a connection with – the SoftHouse Group’s drive to help Haitians seeking relief and shelter, and the IAAF’s community social and cultural empowerment missions.  It was a natural for her to link the two groups.  As a result of the partnership, the Festival will bring attention to the project, and, in the process, help raise funds to offset costs of constructing more SoftHouse units.

She continues, “The Haiti Earthquake touched me deeply; it reminded me of the vulnerability of the African Diaspora, its people, and power of nature to cause disasters. As publisher of Calabar Magazine and co-owner of Calabar Imports, a retailer of crafts and artisan products from across the Diaspora including Haiti, and a designer, I believe strongly in the power of partnerships and collaboration and the importance of designers like architect Rodney Leon taking a lead in creating innovative solutions like the Haiti Softhouse sponsored by The Rural Haiti Project.

“I reached out to my event partner – The International African Arts Festival – to extend a hand and locate a place at their event for the Softhouse at the festival. For me, it was vital to bring the Haiti Softhouse back to Brooklyn which has the second largest population of Haitians and the largest African diaspora in the US. Calabar Magazine has been the official publication of the festival for 4 years, a relationship we value and cherish as we are a Brooklyn based business and support Brooklyn’s Diaspora initiatives.”

The HaitiSOFTHOUSE is a flexible and sustainable approach to shelter that provides immediate transitional housing, community development and reconstruction solutions. The Haiti SoftHouse is a flexible and sustainable approach to shelter that provides an immediate transitional solution for short term housing, community development and reconstruction. The shelter is designed to withstand tropical storms and hurricanes with up to 130mph winds, resist earthquakes, and provide a healthy, well ventilated environment. The flexibility of the structure allows for multiple unit combinations, addressing domestic space needs, institutional needs and community needs.

The Haiti SoftHouse initiative goes beyond providing a unique and effective design solution by identifying strategies for local manufacture and distribution once the initial prototyping is complete. In this sense, the Haiti SoftHouse, through implementation has the capacity to stimulate the local economy and transfer design and fabrication expertise in a manner that promotes sustainable solutions which transform local communities both environmentally and economically.

Haitian American Architect and NOMA member Rodney Leon is one of the designers of the Haiti Softhouse, visit  his website:

The design features a lightweight and easy-to-assemble structural steel frame that receives a modern, breathable, high performance fabric with excellent weather capabilities. The structure can be mounted on a concrete slab or integrate into a prefab concrete foundation manufactured locally from recycled concrete rubble. The structure is designed to be assembled with few people in one day or less.

Given the superior environmental performance and structural stability of the design, this system can be reused in various configurations and sites as needed and the high-performance material can be recycled into smaller applications and integrated into the local economy at the end of the shelter’s life cycle.

The Haiti SoftHouse project and HiBIscus, have identified a site in Jacmel, Haiti with the assistance of The Rural Haiti Project for the initial construction of prototypes for field testing by June of 2010. In conjunction with the Rural Haiti Project, the Haiti SoftHouse is intended to expand and evolve into the Jacmel SOFTVILLAGE in 2010. The Haiti SoftHouse shall serve as an active case study for implementation of transitional communities and allow time for more comprehensive long term sustainable strategies for permanent reconstruction and development in Haiti.


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  1. Habitat for Humanity : Tout moun se moun

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