In the late 19th c., after a visit to Paris, three local Haitian architects figured out how to build sustainable, earthquake and hurricane resistant wood and masonry houses. Known today by the clunky name "Le style gingerbread". Here are some houses in Port-au-Prince, 2017.

The basic construction is exceedingly simple: a basic timber frame reinforced with diagonal braces, and walls infilled with absolutely anything: stone, mud, brick, wood, whatever was at hand when the house was built, it was all going to be covered in plaster anyway.

In the age before air conditioned rooms were made tall, with high ceilings funnelling hot air out of the house via numerous vents and dormer-like turrets. This is a passive ventilation design strategy to create a cool space within a building. Wooden window slats meant the sun could be kept out while maximising air flow from outside.

Damage to infrastructure in the 2010 Haiti earthquake was extensive and affected areas included Port-au-Prince, Petit-Goâve, Léogâne, Jacmel and other settlements in southwestern Haiti. In February Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged. But only 5% of damage were of the 19th century wood frame buildings. Even the homes copied by local builders and not actually designed or engineered by professionals survived while modern buildings mostly collapsed.

This incredible survival rate concerns wooden buildings in a tropical climate that often have not had a lick of maintenance for over 100 years.

The three architects responsible for this remarkable achievement were Georges Baussan (photo), Léon Mathon, and Joseph-Eugène Maximilien, and the building boom lasted from 1895-1925, ending after the Mayor officially banned wooden buildings for reasons of "fire safety". Politics.

Any architect building in the Caribbean or countries surrounding the Caribbean would benefit from using this building technique, this type of vernacular architecture. The style is not important, as vernacular architecture isn't focused on the way that it looks but based on the type and availability of materials so you can make the house look anyway you want, as long as you don't sacrifice its storm resistance such as materials being used for roof.

 

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