Plans to Rebuild Catholic and Episcopalian Cathedrals Take Shape

  • Posted on: 20 December 2012
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
News: 

The Catholic and Episcopalian cathedrals were two prominent landmarks in Port-au-Prince prior to their destruction in the earthquake.  Plans are now underway for the reconstruction of each.  A Puerto Rican team has won an international design competition to rebuild the Catholic Cathedral.  The Episcopalian cathedral will be rebuilt by a Virginia-based firm. Each will be built back better, able to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes.  Learn more at the websites of the Catholic and Episcopalian Cathedrals.  Full Miami Herald article below.

 

BY JENNIFER KAY

ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Almost three years after an earthquake toppled the Roman Catholic and Episcopal cathedrals in Haiti's capital, visions for their resurrection have started to take shape as officials from both churches begin considering proposals to rebuild them. A six-member panel led by the dean of the University of Miami's School of Architecture met this week in South Florida to choose the winner of a design competition that sought ideas for rebuilding the Notre Dame de l'Assomption Cathedral. Meanwhile, Episcopal Church officials have selected a Virginia-based architectural firm to design a new Holy Trinity Cathedral. Both cathedrals collapsed in the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that leveled much of Port-au-Prince. Their destruction left people yearning for the comfort of public monuments, said Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, one member of the jury that met in Coral Gables to select the winner from 134 designs submitted as part of the Notre Dame competition.  "When so much is chaotic and so much is not in an ideal state, it's wonderful to have beautiful things around us, spiritual things that connect our humanity. I think a cathedral is one of those things," said Danticat. "Kings, presidents have walked in it, but so have the poorest people in the neighborhood." The jury's other members are Haitian architect and former government minister Patrick Delatour, the editor-in-chief of Faith & Form magazine, a liturgical consultant and a structural engineer specializing in disaster reconstruction. Haiti's recovery from the quake has been slow, and Catholic Church officials hope their project will encourage more reconstruction. "We really feel the cathedral had to be a flagship for this effort, not only for the church but also for the entire capital," said Yves Savain, a consultant to the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince and the competition's coordinator.

 

All four of the competition's finalists incorporate the ruins of the original cathedral completed in 1914, though that wasn't required. In one design, a wall slides open, exposing the interior of a new rotunda to an outdoor square lined by columns that were inside the old cathedral. Another design features a marketplace leading up to an octagon-shaped cathedral with a palm tree design inside its dome. One finalist would rebuild the cathedral almost exactly as it once was. Another would build a new cathedral in curved shape that Danticat described as "an angel's wing."  The archbishop of Port-au-Prince will announce the winner Thursday. Church officials will decide later whether the winning design will be built eventually or altered. The Episcopal Church selected Arlington, Va.-based Kern Group Architects for the Holy Trinity project. Its design will incorporate three murals painted by Haitian artists to include Haitian people in biblical stories. Holy Trinity was renowned for its 14 murals, but eleven were lost in the quake. "I've been studying their art, their primary use of color and graphics, the indigenous plants, the need for shade - all that needs to be balanced with the site and the cathedral," said Tom Kerns of Kerns Group Architects. "We really want to spend time understanding the culture of the Haitian people so that this project really does reflect them." It could be years before the new cathedrals, designed to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, are completed.

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12.21.2012
Miami Herald
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND ANNA EDGERTON
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Almost three years after the Haiti earthquake, the rubble of the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Cathedral in Port-au-Prince remains a physical and symbolic reminder of reconstruction efforts that are still far from complete. The Cathedral today is a shadow of its majestic former self. The shell of the exterior walls still stands, but the rubble from the fallen bell towers and roof has been cleared. The building is closed to the public, so those who once worshipped there continue to view the ruins from afar. Now, the University of Miami School of Architecture, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince and Faith and Form Magazine, has organized a competition to choose the design for the new Cathedral. In the past year, 250 architects around the world have collaborated to submit 134 plans for the reconstruction. On Monday and Tuesday, a panel of six jurors, including Haitian and international architects and cultural figures, met to review the finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday. The guidelines of the competition said that preserving Haitian religious tradition is a priority for the design, along with employing “green” technology and meeting strict earthquake zone codes. “The Cathedral is not only a religious symbol but it is a national monument,” Yves Savain, consultant to the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince and competition coordinator, said in a statement. “It has a place in history and in culture and its reconstruction can serve as a catalyst for the rebuilding of downtown Port-au-Prince which was also destroyed during the earthquake.” The winner is sure to imagine the new Cathedral on a grand scale, which could cost upwards of $40 million, said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski. That money will have to be raised before construction begins.
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Wenski said the U.S. Catholic Church raised more than $100 million immediately after the January 2010 earthquake, but $70 million was spent on urgent humanitarian relief, and another $30 million have been directed toward rebuilding the infrastructure of the Catholic Church. This includes the rebuilding of dozens of Catholic schools and churches — a process that has not only been delayed by familiar Haitian issues, such as land titling and false land claims, but also by technical preparations and disagreements over architectural design, availability of materials and costs. “Sometimes I am not happy with the costs of designs, and I say we cannot accept that,” said the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Bernardito Azua, who is in charge of dispersing the funds for the church’s rebuilding efforts. “The problem isn’t necessarily money. It’s more technical, it’s more the availability of expertise. It’s where your architect lives, where your engineer lives.” While the reconstruction of some churches and schools is being overseen by different religious groups, the largest effort is being overseen by a Church rebuilding commission put in place after the quake. It is overseeing 60 construction sites, said Azua, the pope’s representative in Haiti. “I am always pleading for patience with donors. If I were outside Haiti, and had not observed all of these things, I would be impatient, too,” he said. “Even though we are slow, we are ahead.”
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The main priority, Azua said, is to assure donors that buildings are hurricane and earthquake-resistant, which doesn’t come inexpensively. For example, the construction of 12 classrooms in one community has cost the church $800,000. And that is without bathrooms and other amenities. Azua also attributed the slow pace of reconstruction to the phases of recovery after such widespread devastation. “We also have to think not even Japan can reconstruct that fast,’’ he said. “It’s so hard to have reconstruction after an earthquake. It’s easier to reconstruct after a tsunami because the tidal waves clear everything.” For example, it costs $300,000 just to remove the debris of the Cathedral. The cost for bringing down the Cathedral bells was more than $30,000 a bell, carried out by the engineering unit of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Until now, the bishops of Haiti have focused on rebuilding churches in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince in places like Leogane and Jacmel. Another priority is rebuilding the national seminary, which is in the second phase of engineering and has been hampered by disputed land claims. “All of these things, you don’t see. All of these things are invisible,” Azua said. “There are so many things in Haiti that you don’t see that make things difficult.” Still, the first stage in moving ahead with the construction of a new Cathedral will be choosing the best design. But he said it should reflect the church’s history in Haiti. “There is nothing wrong with a Gothic Cathedral,” he said, laughing. “But it’s certainly not Haitian.”

12/21/2012
Miami Herald
BY ANNA EDGERTON
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In the winning design for rebuilding the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, the familiar rose-window façade of the original welcomes worshippers to an outdoor garden. But the plan to rebuild the church devastated by the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, veers from the original with a new, circular building that wraps around a central altar, accented by local art, with retractable walls that open to the garden for special occasions. The first-place plan, chosen by a panel of six professionals at the University of Miami School of Architecture, was announced Thursday. Architects from all over the world collaborated to submit 134 entries, which were narrowed down to five finalists. The winning design — a modern interpretation of the traditional architecture of a cathedral — was submitted by Segundo Cardona and a team of six other architects from Puerto Rico. Cardona’s other significant works include the Coliseum of San Juan and the Puerto Rico Pavilion built for the 1992 World Expo in Seville, Spain. “The panel unanimously agreed that the final choice is memorable, elegant and dignified, yet welcoming to the greater community of Port-au-Prince and those who visit,” said Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the UM School of Architecture. She said the design has elements of “looking to the past, but also looking forward to the future.”
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As with any design competition, the final product will not follow the winning design exactly, and back-and-forth with the client — in this case the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince — is expected. Cardona and his team will receive a cash prize of $12,000. A group of Mexican architects led by Diego Ramos won the second-place prize of $8,000. Seven Miami-based architects under the direction of Steven Fett, an adjunct faculty member at the UM School of Architecture, won third place and $5,000. Eleven different designs for the cathedral will be displayed through January at the UM school and then sent to the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami. Plater-Zyberk said the first-place plan has elements of “restoration and preservation” by keeping the front façade of the original cathedral that was not destroyed in the earthquake. She described the new structure, to be built to the east of the old footprint, as “very much of our time, but also in some sense timeless.” The plan calls for a cathedral that will seat 1,200 people with overflow room for 600. Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said money still needs to be raised to build the cathedral because most of the $100 million collected by the Catholic Church in the United States after the earthquake went to humanitarian aid and other church-development projects. Rebuilding the cathedral, while of symbolic importance in downtown Port-au-Prince, has not been a priority in the massive reconstruction efforts that are still limping along almost three years after the earthquake. “I think there was an idea of making a space of remembrance,” Plater-Zyberk said. “There is not a sense of dwelling on the misfortune or the tragedy as much as remembering, and that out of such tragedy something new and good arises.”

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