The Haiti Now Project, proposed by Thom Mayne, Eui-Sung Yi and UCLA Architecture and Urban Design, recognizes that the most experienced and advanced responders to humanitarian crises are leading the effort to resurrect Haiti and questions what urban planners and architects can do. Clearly, the planners’ role is not within the first responder tier, but there is need for a sustainable vision for the region’s future. Planning must occur now.


What is the difference between relief, recovery and planning?
Relief is reaction — immediate, urgent, life-saving. It is an injection of soft goods, the flow of outside products and services to meet emergency needs. Recovery is strategy — prodding local systems back to life. Recovery targets the incremental strengthening of pre-existing local physical systems so a devastated region can stand again. Planning is prevention — long-term vision that anticipates solutions to latent problems. Planning sets an overarching direction for development.


In Haiti, there is no question that relief was provided. But why couldn’t Haiti progress any further past an emergency aid model into recovery?


The internal infrastructural systems needed for recovery simply did not exist in the Haiti. Any city — robust, stable or in decline — can benefit from relief aid. However, only a city with a given level of stability can take this aid to strengthen its internal systems and restart its life. In effect, the foundational aspects of urban design must be present to some degree to even trigger a recovery. In Haiti, where the lack of basic infrastructure is apparent, a tactical model of aid is needed. A campaign of awareness and coordination is key. Without information about an established framework, the players have no rules or expectations entering the scenario. Stakeholders must be flexible, anticipate redundancies and be in continual contact with one another. Coordination becomes the spine of infrastructure, which feeds and grows into other essential systems and services.


What happens after recovery? Preventative planning is the best long-term investment that any disaster-prone region can pursue. This new city paradigm will be defined by design logic which inherently protects a city from its vulnerabilities. For Haiti, this is not only needed, but entirely possible. Rebuilding is requisite, the only question is how. Compared to day-to-day relief efforts, a long-term planning exercise for Haiti seems comparatively removed and distant. However, the nature of any future speculation is to operate on assumptions. Less like recovery and still less like relief, planning is critically dependent on the perspectives, knowledge, needs and aspirations of locals. For a lasting, realistic and desirable vision, local partners will be central — first as collaborators, then as benefactors of their own realized vision.
Immediately following a disaster, relief efforts are critical to saving lives. But steps taken toward recovery and planning are what actually determine lasting development in the region. Haiti’s lack of developmental infrastructure suggests that recovery cannot be achieved by rebooting preexisting systems. Rather a coordinated process that builds local capacity is needed. Preventative planning sets a long-term vision for Haiti as a disaster-resistant city. Local knowledge and leadership is critical for planning development and enactment. Relief, recovery and planning is the current model for reconstruction after disaster. However, disaster-resistant urban design has the potential to preclude this cycle. Haiti has the potential to prove it.

Haiti Now Advisory Board

Hervé Sabin, Architect
Cofounder, Studio Drum Collective
Frederick Mangones, Architect
President, Architecture et Developpement
Kendy Vérilus, Filmmaker
Independent screenwriter and director
Annunzie Roy, Businesswoman
Operations Manager, We Advance
Yvette Gonzalez, NGO Expert
Director, We Advance




Port-au-Prince, Ouest, Haiti


Research Projects



Executive Director:

Thom Mayne


Eui-Sung Yi