The community center in Cormiers, Haiti.
OK, so what you're looking at is not another of our hobbit houses, nor is it the next tiny-homes craze (though, selfishly, we kind of wish it were). Even better: this is a community center in the rural village of Cormiers, Haiti, and it checks off so many humanitarian-design boxes—earthquake resilience, local materials, simple construction, community self-determination—all while looking like a very fine outcropping of Easter eggs.
Completed in 2010, the community center kicked off a collaboration between the residents of Cormiers and Konbit Shelter, a small group of U.S.-based artists, architects, engineers, and builders, including the street artist Swoon. Since then they've built a similarly domed house for a local woman, and now the group has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the construction of a second house for a woman and her three kids.
The Konbit Shelter method ("konbit" means something like "cooperation" in Haitian Creole) uses the earth-bag, or superadobe, building technique developed by the late Iranian-born architect Nader Khalili. Requiring little skill to erect and no heavy machinery, the arched arrangement of earth-filled sacks is stronger than cinder-block and concrete-slab construction, according to Konbit Shelter. They're secured and finished with cement and plaster, yielding a continuous, high-ceilinged dome with enough thermal mass to keep the indoors cool in the hot Haitian sun.
The community center at night.
Each building is a bespoke creation, embellished by local craftsmen and artists with details like hand-carved awnings, interior scaffolding, and welded barrel-frame windows. Because the materials are local and the method is easy to learn, Konbit Shelter plugs in naturally to the town's economy, and thus does not depend on the resources or expertise of an NGO. The structures aren't cheap—the current campaign asks for $30,000 for one house—but they are built to last, and the amount of labor they require boosts jobs and fosters a lot of community collaboration. As Swoon explains in the group's Kickstarter video, "What we learned along the way is that the creation of jobs was every bit as important as the creation of the structure."
A skylight with artisan-built scaffolding in the first Konbit Shelter house, completed in 2011.
Construction in progress.
All images courtesy of Konbit Shelter