Konbit Shelter | Haiti

Posh Sauvage | Earth Issue


Post-Earthquake Support

in the Village of Bigones, Haiti

Konbit Shelter

is Breaking Ground for a stronger foundation

Konbit Shelter is a sustainable building project with the objective of sharing knowledge and resources through the creation of homes and community spaces in post earthquake Haiti.

Konbit Shelter is a group of artists, builders, architects, and engineers, who, after the January 2010 earthquake, asked themselves ‘how could we use our skills and resources to directly assist another community in a time of crisis?’

The goal of Konbit Shelter is to link their creative passion as artists and their training as architects and engineers with the broad knowledge and skills of local artisans, builders, and farmers. They are working to build permanent, creatively designed structures which utilize the advantages of earth bag and dome architecture as adapted to the climate and conditions of rural Haiti.

Their focus is primarily on the super-adobe technique of earth bag architecture, which is an extraordinary building design for its ability to create earthquake, hurricane, flood, and fire resistant structures, using inexpensive and locally available resources.

Originally designed by Nader Khalili and continued by Cal-Earth, the approach specifically addresses the world wide need for adequate housing. This system of building provides an easily replicable model, which can be built without using specialized construction machinery and can be participated in by the men and women of any community.

Utilizing 90% earth, and only 10% cement, these structures are stronger than the now common cinder block and concrete slab construction. The technique also uses little to no wood, an invaluable asset in timber depleted Haiti.

In the summer of 2010, Konbit Shelter partnered with the Mango Grower’s Association of Leogane, in the village of Bigones, Barrier Jeudi, to create a multi room community center. They returned in December to construct a one family house. By sourcing all materials within Haiti, and raising money to hire a crew of builders from the community, they were able to bring the kind of assistance that promotes the local economy, creates jobs, and builds valuable skill sets.

Konbit Shelter are in the process of developing a long term building initiative, which, for each house will bring together one artist, one architect, and one family, to imagine and construct a home. They hope to continue to build a relationship with the people of Bigones, and to form a larger link between the creative community that they are a part of, and this rural community in need of housing. Through creative partnerships, they are seeking to participate in the rebuilding of Haiti in a way that acknowledges the importance of soulfulness and beauty in people’s daily lives.

The structure for the park relies on one of the most ancient and persistent building technologies, the dome. In the simple act of stacking bricks (in this case, polypropylene bags filled with earth) atop one another in progressively narrowing circles, the builder creates a structure where each component is bound to all others in a chorus of compressive forces — all equal members all doing the same work to span an open space. The technique has 12 roots in cultures as diverse as Inuit igloos, Algonquin wigwams, and the corbel domes of Mesopotamia, which inspired the Romans to build gravity defying structures like the Pantheon and begin the lineage of Western architectural history. In this tradition, domes became a concrete recreation of the heavens. The domes of Renaissance cathedrals were intended to put us in awe of the Almighty and the earthly vessels who could summon the capital and labor needed for these generational projects. Swoon’s dome does not celebrate the supernatural but instead everyday heroism. This dome is not adorned with gilded statues of patrons and saints, but with woodcuts drawings of women that the artist made while in traveling in Egypt, India, and the United States.

The definition of Konbit in Creole is a traditional form of cooperative communal labor in Haiti, whereby the able-bodied folk of a locality help each other prepare their fields.

It is a time for solidarity and cooperation in the face of adversity.

Konbit Shelter is referencing the word with a global interpretation, people coming together to work cooperatively across national boundaries.

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