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Preserving Haiti's Gingerbread Houses - 2010 Earthquake Mission Report

Published on 11 January 2011

Author(s): WMF/Norma Barbacci

Type:  Report

This report represents the results of the assessment mission and constitutes a first step in a challenging recovery process

In October 2009, the Gingerbread Houses of Haiti were included on the 2010 World Monuments Watch, to raise international awareness about this unique ar¬chitectural heritage. Many of these once elegant, turn-of-the-century structures, detailed with fretted wood and intricate latticework, had fallen into disrepair. While political instability and economic strife had precluded substantive preservation ef¬forts in recent decades, the Haitian Leadership and Education Program (HELP) brought the Gingerbread Houses to the attention of the World Monuments Fund (WMF), in the hopes of generating support for the revitalization of these important buildings and communities.

Less than three months later, the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, all but shattered the Haitian people and the places they hold dear. Global response to the disaster was profound, and many cultural heritage organizations mobilized quick¬ly to aid in the recovery process. By early February, Norma Barbacci, WMF’s Direc¬tor for Latin America and the Caribbean, was on the ground in Haiti, working with local and international institutions in coordinating assistance efforts. Though many of the Gingerbread Houses suffered significant damage, their traditional construc¬tion proved seismically resistant and very few collapsed. Thus, the Haitian govern¬ment prioritized these neighborhoods and their iconic architecture for international conservation assistance.

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Gingerbread House in Cap Haitian, 2008

Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL), in partnership with HELP, then spearheaded a proposal for broad revitalization of the Gingerbread neighborhoods. Liaising with FOKAL, the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICO¬MOS), and the Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National (ISPAN) in Haiti, WMF worked to implement an initial assessment of the Gingerbread Houses, to determine needs and conditions and to jumpstart the broader rehabilitation effort.

During this same period, WMF and the Prince Claus Fund forged a new coopera¬tive agreement for disaster response, aimed at the recovery of monuments and cul¬tural heritage sites in the wake of natural and man-made disasters. This joint program seeks to provide more emergency assistance where and when it is most needed, as well as draw attention to the plight of communities and their heritage in the after¬math of catastrophe. The crisis in Haiti was an immediate focal point of mutual aid. WMF and PCF matched funds, sending a team of ICOMOS experts to Haiti, while FOKAL provided in-country support and funding for the assessment efforts and the international and local team.

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This report represents the results of the assessment mission and constitutes a first step in a challenging recovery process. It is anticipated that this data will serve to inform and build the broader program of revitalization for the Gingerbread neigh¬borhoods and to foster continued institutional cooperation and community partici¬pation. A key element envisioned by WMF for future phases includes a series of tech¬nical briefs cum manual for residents and building owners, enabling them to work toward the repair and conservation of the Gingerbread Houses and the overall revi¬talization of these once vibrant neighborhoods. This assessment lays the groundwork for such materials and ancillary training, and builds a foundation for information sharing, advocacy, and community development. By emphasizing the common chal¬lenges and opportunities faced by the Gingerbread House community, the project team and partners hope to facilitate continued cooperation and engender collective support for recovery.

For the full mission report click on the picture below.

Mission report Gingerbread houses WMF.jpg
 

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