"I'm not sure if things are happening too fast or what...I don't know..." Kate Evarts muses about the current atmosphere in Port-au-Prince. It's summer, hotter than the usual 'just standard hot,' hurricane season, the end of vacation, and transformation is everywhere you look. You could say it's the most promising time for Haiti's metropolis since the earthquake two and a half years ago. But it's a "very confusing moment" in the city.
"Citywide there's so much really good-quality construction going on–so many things being built. You get a sense the city is coming back to life. They've taken all the tent camps out of downtown, so the whole Champ de Mars is now filled with open parks, it's just fantastic," I can hear Kate shaking her head over the phone connection (which is better than bad–must be clear skies there and here in San Francisco). "You really get a sense that Things are Happening, but, at the same time, there's a sense of people getting a little crazy–theivery, robbing, break-ins and shootings..." all concurrent with the steps of progress around town.
The combination creates a somewhat inexplicable sense of unease. "Nobody can pinpoint what it is that people are getting all riled up about," Kate repeats, "but Pele is suffereing because of it."
We've had our run-ins on site of the massive Pele campus project, with "bandits" and other gang groups threatening construction. Construction has been understandably stop-and-go for the past year or so as Architecture worked with the school headmaster and community representative to talk with gang groups about their behavior. But the impression is that Ecole Baptiste Bon Berger has become a landmark.
"It's not community aggression against the school, it just happens to be an easy target for people to come in and cause trouble. It has nothing at all to do with us building a school."
Someone once told me "there's never just ONE community." Meaning the bandits are an exception to the hundreds of Pele residents excited to see this new school join the neighborhood. Yet for some reason they haven't been able to shout down gang aggressors. As Architecture begins new projects in the area, effective community assurances have become Top Priority "groudwork" for construction–water table be darned.
Nevertheless, construction soldiers on–if only so that the contractor
fulfills his commitments there–but also because work at Pele is so tantilizingly close to completion on four classrooms and a basketball court.
Window and door screens: installed! Screen pattern design responds to light study done by MIT students
Pouring and smoothing the basketball court slab
New hoop at Ecole Baptiste Bon Berger