¨There are 230,000 dead to mourn, up to 300,000 buildings damaged, and 1.5 million people still without homes. But Port-au-Prince is at least back on its feet: the port, airport and phone network are working again, the potholed streets are clogged with traffic and lined with vendors, and talk is no longer of emergency relief but of reconstruction – and the conspicuous lack of it.
So perhaps it's not inappropriate to remember the prettiness of Haiti's past. The country has an extraordinary architectural heritage, reflecting its status as the first independent, black-led country in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion.
In that respect, Haiti faces a dilemma: on one hand, there is the need to get the country back on its feet quickly; on the other, there's the desire to preserve what links to the past remain. Yes, architecture is about providing shelter, security and functionality, but it is also about culture, memory and history. In a place like today's Haiti, the former values inevitably take precedence, particularly when there are innumerable charities and NGOs advancing well-meaning but uncoordinated reconstruction projects. Churches and other historic structures have already been toppled or razed, their futures uncertain. This country that has lost so much still has more to lose, but who wants to talk about preserving culture and history when there are still 1.5 million people living in tents?
Haiti´s ¨gingerbread¨ house.
"Why should we make a tabula rasa out of everything when we have such an incredible history – and artefacts that tell that history?" asks Michèle Pierre-Louis, president of Fokal, Haiti's Knowledge and Freedom Foundation. "I've travelled a lot in the world, and been to lots of poor places where there is a strong sense of history and memory. That is extremely important. It's a link, it's part of your identity."
Excerpt from Steve Rose´s article. Haiti: rocked to its foundations. For Guardian.co.uk