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Topic: Impressions from Port au Prince, Haiti

1.  Impressions from Port au Prince, Haiti

Posted 8 days ago

 

First glimpses

The morning after a late arrival in darkness and a fantastic thunderstorm presented a view that was astonishing for its blue sky. The morning sun bathed a dense pack of houses clustered on the mountainside like a flow of lava.
Sunrise Petion Ville (all images Philipsen)

The scale of the hillside or its homes is hard to comprehend at first. The hotel is the only structure with 9 floors, the mountainside is so densely packed and so steep that no streets seem to be possible there. Only commercial buildings in the foreground provide a sense that the hillside buildings a bit further back are not villas, but rather tiny boxes the size of a shipping container. 
The giant billboard advertising an Audi Q5 in French for "seulement" $45,900 coming into view in the foreground seems quite incongruous, as does another in English showing a BMW and the words "taller, bigger, stronger". Are these advertisements for the hotel guests? But who comes here to sleep and then buy a car?

Compared to the total view from the circling plane before landing at the Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport, this particular hotel window view reveals only a very small sliver of Port au Prince, capital of Haiti, a city of some 3 million residents. The capital of "the poorest nation in the western hemisphere", a descriptor that Haiti can't shake. It appears to contrast with the beauty of this mountainside or the apparent demand for luxury vehicles. 
In some parts of Port au Prince's urbanity, if measured in density of people, vendors or goods, can beat that of an urban festival in a US city. It is easy to be fascinated by the quirky vitality of this type of streetlife because it is often so frustratingly absent in US cities. It is easy aestheticise ruins, decay and the sometimes opulent vegetation in a hundred photogenic settings bathed in Caribbean light in a place where the luxury cars cost more than a hundred times of what an average resident of...  read all









Impressions from Port au Prince, Haiti
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Impressions from Port au Prince, Haiti
First glimpses The morning after a late arrival in darkness and a fantastic thunderstorm presented a view that was astonishing for its b...
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Nikolaus Philipsen FAIA
Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
Baltimore MD
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