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Le Manoir Alexandra, an early twentieth-century masonry building located in Jacmel’s historic district, is a powerful symbol of Haiti’s cultural identity. Made famous by the novel Hadriana in All My Dreams, by the Jacmelian author René Dépestre, Le Manoir Alexandra represents Haiti’s spatial and cultural narrative and the complexities that surround cultural ownership of Haitian identity. These complexities are literally present in the changes that the building has undergone since its construction in the early 1900s. While its initial use as a private residence for a French family demarcated class and privilege, by the 1980s it became a threshold between the local and international community as a hotel.

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Le Manoir Alexandra . Research Trip 1 : November 2011 . Before Renovations. 

This architectural thesis seeks to foster a beneficial cultural exchange within the city of Jacmel and with the global community by transforming Le Manoir Alexandra into a house museum that challenges cultural assimilation and provides exhibition and performance spaces. The house museum itself is dedicated to the exhibition of Oath of the Ancestors (1822), a historic painting that reveals a narrative of European dominance in conflict with Afro-Caribbean heritage. Visitors’ movement through the house museum into its gardens follows a spiral pattern reminiscent of an iron spiral staircase, a common architectural characteristic in Jacmel that is in fact imported from Europe. The spiraling pathway ends in Le Manoir’s garden, where Jacmel’s dance academy studios are nestled in dense vegetation in an atmosphere recalling forest dance rituals during colonial times. Throughout this architectural thesis, complex narratives from past and present are stitched together, acknowledging a history that deals precisely with the cultural clash that may occur when those two worlds collide.

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Author of this Blog: Nathalie Jolivert| www.jolivert.com | nathalie@jolivert.com

 

Threshold
Le Manoir Alexandra Interiors. Research Trip 1 : November 2011 . Before Renovations