The city of Jacmel, located in the South-East department of Haïti, has consistently attracted tourists from around the world with its vibrant carnival season attended by thousands every year, its welcoming people who believe in a “good morning with a cup of coffee” or a warm good morning, and for its historic district rich with colonial houses from the 19th century. Jacmel’s traditional welcoming qualities and cultural wealth proves that it is more than just a tourist attraction; it is a city whose citizens take pride in their traditions, local institutions and have modern conceptions of social responsibility.
When the earthquake of January 2010 struck the country, students from the newly formed film school “Ciné Institute”, actively reported the damage caused in Jacmel. Since the epicenter was in Port-au-Prince, miles away from Jacmel, it was not immediately clear the Southern city had been affected by the earthquake. The Ciné Institute video-reports were crucial in bringing aid to the city. Media and technology play an important role in cities. Nowadays, telecommunication, interactive websites and data collection technologies seem to be imperative to the development of cities. Jacmel currently benefits from many websites promoting its uniqueness as the “cultural hub” of Haiti.
Even though there are these fantastic media outlets, the major earthquake, plus lack of preservation and restoration have led to the gradual disappearance of not only public monuments and buildings, but their history. If one wishes to learn more about the city government of Jacmel, the backbone of all projects in the city, it is difficult to find specific information. The city hall of Jacmel was located on the West end of the Central Plaza of Jacmel (or “Place d’Armes”, recently named “Place Toussaint Louverture”) and had to be demolished because of severe damage after the earthquake.
For my architectural thesis, I would like to explore how best to link modern citizenry to the government, through the preservation of the Hotel Manoir Alexandra. The goal is to transform the 18th centruy masonry residential building into Jacmel’s new city hall, a transparent and accessible model of government.