The Haiti Earthship Project: Sustainable Inspiration in the Midst of a Debacle
Architect Michael Reynolds’s housing uses recycled materials to reconstruct the landscape and raise morale in Haiti.
The devastating earthquake that shook Haiti a few years ago took a toll on an already weak economy. It almost goes without saying that the sum of both produced dismal effects on the Haitian people’s trust and morale.
Many efforts have been made to aid this beautiful though wounded country. Architect Michael Reynolds’ “Earthship” project stands out as an empowering housing alternative for Haitians. Earthships are self-sufficient, ecologically-minded houses made completely out of recycled materials. These “biotecture” homes are one of the most successful models of radical and replicable self-sustainability in modern architecture.
Through the Haiti Earthship Project, Reynolds taught 40 Haitians between the ages of 4 and 50 to build rooms out of recycled materials—mostly tires and plastic bottles— over a period of only four days. What is truly exceptional about Earthship dwellings is that both the materials and the skills needed for construction are few and easily acquired. In addition, the homes are sustainable, affordable and comfortable. This project works towards and within, as Reynolds puts it, “a system that is independent of corporations, largely independent of oil and independent of politics.”
The architect, who has built more than a thousand Earthships, many of them in disaster areas, also emphasized the emotional importance of teaching someone who has been through trauma how to (re)build something. It is an educational experience that gives people back the ability to imagine, dream and materialize one’s own hopes. Those who have worked with Reynolds have a chance to learn that, even though life and misfortune may put them down, they can reinvent themselves and continue to push forward.
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