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May 05. 2013 10:06PM

Keene State students unveil design plan for Haitian vocational school

KEENE - Six Keene State College architecture students unveiled the preliminary design they developed for a 10,000 square foot vocational school in Haiti at the Alumni Center Wednesday.

For more than 20 year students from the college's Communicorps class have worked with community groups in the Monadnock region to tackle design projects through a team effort.

Senior Fritz Henning had already taken the course, but joined in as part of his senior project, he said.

"I hopped on board this because I think it's great designing for outside of the Keene area," he said.

The students were asked to design a vocational school that would be used to teach electrical, masonry, plumbing and carpentry skills, but they also added an automobile shop that would allow the school to teach mechanics and generate income from fixing cars, Henning said.

Peter Temple, associate professor of architecture at Keene State, said he had wanted the Communicorps students to work on a Haitian project since the 2010 earthquake devastated the country. Through a contact at Architecture for Humanity, Temple learned a Boston-based Haitian group was seeking help in the design of a vocational school in the Plateau Central region of the country.

"It means a lot for us because we are from Haiti and we know what education means there," said Estenieau Jean, executive director of the Organization of Support to the Development of the Plateau Central.

"So having this project designed is like a dream come true for us."

Jacques Parent, OSDPC executive secretary/media relations, said higher education for medicine and law are strong in Haiti, but take five to six years to complete and often the newly educated doctors and lawyers can't find work in Haiti.

On the other hand construction workers from the Dominican Republic are often brought into Haiti to work on construction projects because they have the skills.

"This school will teach students on the spot and they will have the skills to put food on the table," Parent said. "The impact this will have on people's lives will be profound."

The Hinche Vocational School was designed through a collaboration between the students - Henning, Bill Preskenis, Jessica Pierre, Kristen Guillette, Jillian Cornelius and Jason Abram - as well as the volunteers from OSDPC and Architects for Humanity Boston.

Though they consulted with the OSDPC volunteers, the students worked on the project by themselves for the most part. So Pierre, whose father is originally from the Plateau Central region of Haiti, was incredibly helpful in designing the school through her cultural insights.

For instance she knew that many people in Haiti get around on mopeds, so the students designed parking to accommodate that transportation. Lunch is also the largest meal of the day in Haiti, so the students were sure to design a cafeteria that would be appropriate culturally.

Because air-conditioning would not be feasible for the school the classrooms were designed to have high ceilings.

The school was also designed to be earthquake resistant and could serve as an emergency shelter if needed.

OSDPC is still raising funds to build the school. Learn more at osdpc.org.

mpierce@newstote.com


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