Inspiration for the L’abri house is derived from Labadee, a port located on the northern cost of Haiti. The land is currently tourist oriented, housing private resorts that provide employment. Locals are permitted to sell their goods for a fee while establishing businesses at the resort. In addition to a high unemployment rate, Haiti also suffers from inclement weather that has devastated regions of the country, causing damages in the loss of billions of dollars. In addition to being subjected to multiple earthquakes, Haiti’s hurricane season lasts from June to October. The L’abri project explores a new perspective on how native Haitians might be integrated into Labadee by re-thinking the commercialization of the land with resilient housing that allows residents to live, play, work, sell, and trade within an inviting coastal environment.
Built on the water’s edge, L’abri is exposed to the wind, sand and sea and therefore must be rigid and protected. To ensure the house is hurricane-proof, the shell is clad with dense concrete floors and walls, oversized truss hangers to keep the roof system anchored to the walls, a rust-proof reflective metal roof to reduce radiant heat gain in the home, and projectile-rated windows and doors strong enough to withstand the impact of debris hitting the structure during a storm. Exterior glass doors and windows are “fold away” and are positioned to receive the ocean breeze all year round. L’abri envisions a hurricane home of the future that promotes innovation, inclusion and diversity. The daily agenda of a family residing in L’abri may consist of preparing goods for sale and prepping for opening the busines, a large breakfast of coffee, herring with plantains and avocados, corn with codfish, or liver with plantains and planning for children to go to school. When the shop is closed and the kids have returned from school, the family will talk of the day’s events over a dinner of rice, beans, vegetables, meat, fish and spices for added flavor. Dinner is followed by a night cap of Haitian’s finest rum and is accompanied by bellies full of love, laughter, food and a well-deserved rest in preparation for the next day’s events.
Traditionally, in Haiti and throughout the Caribbean, the family unit consists of the extended family. Growing families of four to ten children are not uncommon. Very often, adult children are expected to remain with their parents until marriage. Married children live with one spouse’s parents until they can afford a home of their own. Haitians are known to be warm, friendly and generous which can be attributed to the success of trade that is common amongst Caribbean people. The pride of the Haitian people is rooted in its culture and history and is demonstrated in everyday tasks from preparing food, sewing garments, harvesting land, creating art and fishing for the purpose of resale. L’abri, therefore, provides a home for extended families having self-sustainable businesses. L’abri reconnects the human desire for a deeper connection with the environment while taking advantage of a property’s highest and best use.
Architectural features of L’abri include a metal standing seam roof, a round floor plan and a reinforced concrete shell that reduces the wind pressure on all sides and that offers both protection against flying debris and wind deflection by sustaining hurricane and other extreme weather conditions via disbursement of built-up pressure back into the environment. L’abri is fitted with reinforced windows and impact glass to keep the property weathertight and secured. The round structure and pitched roof give the interior of the home a very distinctive character. Floor-to-ceiling reinforced windows offer extra protection and sweeping coastal views. Sustainable features include reclaimed hardwood flooring on each level. The metal standing seam roof can be fitted with solar panels to provide independent solar water heaters, uninterrupted hot water, and a passive solar design that maintains a constant internal temperature during cold nights and chilly mornings.
L’abri’s vertically stacked structure is organized by three 750 sf levels. The lower level accommodates the sale of goods or services in an open plan. “Event architecture” housed on the first floor may include dining, art galleries, cafes, produce markets, and are adaptable to the needs of its occupants and the community they serve. The upper levels of the home are dedicated to the development of the nuclear and extended families and consist of traditional residential areas. The second floor provides living quarters encompassing two bedrooms with walk-in closets and a shared bathroom, kitchen, dining room and a great room. The third floor provides two additional bedrooms with walk-in closets and a shared bathroom, a master bedroom with walk-in closet and a private bathroom, laundry room and office. Every floor provides beautiful light, bright and airy panoramic views of the land, trees and water. Access to all three levels is provided via an exterior enclosed stair that is connected to the first level via a raised patio and to the upper levels via hurricane resistant glass balconies that run along the home’s perimeter providing an extended platform for appreciating the magnificent mountainous views of the island.