Renovation of Place D’Armes, Aquin
CONCEPTUAL DESIGN PROPOSAL
Since 2012, HIBISCUS has collaborated with Fondation Solidarité Aquin (FAS) – a non-profit civic organization based in Aquin, Haiti – on a new design to renovate Place d’Armes, Aquin’s public square. The park has been barren and in a state of neglect for many years, yet it is the venue for a vibrant music and arts festival – Destination Aquin – taking place every year on Easter weekend which brings to town thousands of people from across Haiti, the Haitian Diaspora, and the international community. FAS reached out to HIBISCUS to envision a design for the park, both to help raise awareness on the need to renovate as well as to fundraise for the needed renovation. Furthermore, the new park would put Aquin on the map as a tourist destination in southern Haiti, and might just be the catalyst needed to encourage residential and commercial property owners to contribute in the renaissance of Aquin.
Every town in Haiti was planned with a public square. This architectural characteristic was a civic act by the original town founders and planners. The prominent and central location of these parks was and still is the place where important recreational, cultural and political functions would occur, and today these parks represent the pride and identity of each town.
Although Aquin has numerous other needs, renovation of its park is a project that has the unanimous support of its citizenry. We strongly believe that the design of the park should respond to the expectations and input of all its residents.
As architects, engineers, and landscapers, our team views the design of this important Aquin landmark as an opportunity to renovate a very special space, and re-establish its symbolic urban significance for both, residents who remember its once glorious central place in town and have witnessed its deterioration over the last 40 years, and tourists, eager to make Aquin a destination during their visit in Haiti.
APPROACH & METHODOLOGY
Prior to starting our creative design process, our first step was to conduct the necessary studies of the history of the square, the town, the surrounding environment as well as a preliminary investigation and photographic survey of the site. Further research and analysis of soil, topography, local climate, local vegetation, flooding capacity, as well as local and regional architecture and culture remain to guide design decisions.
Our strategy is to create a public square that is both resilient and sustainable – a square that requires minimal maintenance and one that is independent of the town’s fragile infrastructure.
The central feature of the park is a stage with a large open space for large gatherings – concerts, film screenings, sports events and dance performances. Since the park hosts an annual international festival, (Destination Aquin) we propose to include, along with the stage, supportive spaces for performing artists.
Considering the large crowds in attendance at the festival, it will be essential that building and plant materials used be durable and carefully selected. Furthermore, we would like to introduce vegetation (trees and plants) appropriate and indigenous to Haiti’s southern coast.
The people of Aquin also requested the park offer play areas for children, a soccer/volleyball/basketball field, areas of relaxation for youth and elderly, as well as vending areas for local artisans. Replenishing the park with the tree canopies it had lost over the past 40 years was also an important element to consider. Such canopies would provide much needed shade from the harsh tropical sun. A town hall meeting was held with the citizens of Aquin and their wish list for the park was incorporated in the design.
Careful consideration would also be given to organization of pedestrian circulation, paved vs. landscaped areas, water features such as drainage, caption and storage of rain water for use in irrigation and toilet fixtures. We also proposed to make the canals surrounding the park safer and more hygienic by creating an integrated sidewalk with drainable gratings.
Sustainable features would include Permeable pavers capable of absorbing rain water, bioswales to aid in flooding prevention and the use of solar and wind energy, if feasible.
The park’s design also aims to plan for an innovative, functional and dynamic space for cultural, social, educational and recreational purposes.