Back-to-back hurricanes and earthquakes have meant that Haitians have grown accustomed to massive upheavals. Port-au-Prince’s Knowledge and Freedom Foundation (Fokal), founded and headed by former prime minister Michèle D Pierre-Louis, has taken a bottom-up approach to recovery with community-focused urbanism projects.
Chief among Fokal’s initiatives is the creation of the 17-hectare Martissant Park, the country’s first urban public park. For years Martissant was a forested area that later became plagued by gang violence after a surge of migration. Once governmental permission to develop the area was clinched, the foundation brought the concept to residents. “We took an [educational] approach to the project by meeting with the population, listening to them and trying to introduce an idea that could only work if the community had a sense of ownership,” says Pierre-Louis. “What we saw had an incredible effect.”
The park has since generated employment for 75 residents who work across a cultural centre, library, nursery, medicinal plant garden, earthquake memorial and urban agricultural programme, which helps nearby schools and families to cultivate their own vegetable gardens. “We are able to bring in people from the whole spectrum to Martissant,” says Pierre-Louis, pointing to this year’s gathering to commemorate the 2010 earthquake. Some 800 people attended, including 13 foreign ambassadors. “Locals met with the people who are only ever seen on TV,” she says.
Another of Fokal’s signature projects has been the rehabilitation of Port-au-Prince’s gingerbread houses. Many of these century-old structures are built in a distinctive Haitian style and managed to withstand the 2010 earthquake. During their renovation, the homes become de facto training centres that support the education of craftsmen in a method of design and construction that has proven, by virtue of the houses’ continued existence, resistant to collapse in a major earthquake.
Though Port-au-Prince still faces innumerable challenges, there is hope that the foundation’s work will inspire other communities to embark on small, urban-focused projects to drive real economic change. “For us it is about anchoring transformation into something that is comprehensible,” says Fokal executive director Lorraine Mangonès. “These are not fairytales.”
Utrecht has recently opened the first half of what will be the biggest bicycle-parking garage in the world, able to house a whopping 12,500 bikes over three floors by the end of 2018.
The €40m project aims to solve the clutter outside Utrecht’s busy main train station and improve accessibility for the two in five people who arrive by bike. There is an electronic system to guide users to empty spaces, free repair tools and rental bikes. Given the ever-increasing Dutch love affair with bicycles, however, some claim it is neither ambitious nor big enough.
New Orleans’ Lafitte Greenway was slow to catch on with cyclists after it opened in 2015 but since then the 4km bike path has seen a significant increase in traffic. The route has spurred several unexpected but welcome changes in the area.
Properties in and around the Greenway have been revitalised with $100m (€83.8m) of current or planned projects.
Authorities approved the first bar alongside the Greenway earlier this year.
Slated to launch in the autumn, it will further increase the area’s economic prospects.
During his first term as mayor in the late 1990s, Enrique Peñalosa oversaw the launch of Bogotá’s celebrated rapid-transit bus system. Nearly two decades later he’s back in office for a second term and is working to launch the city’s first subway system, which is due to be completed by 2022.
Why does Bogotá need a subway system?
Bogotá is one of the densest cities in the world. It grew hugely in the second half of the last century. It’s still growing: we have nine million residents.
What are the limits of a rapid-transit bus system like Transmilenio?
We have stoplights that limit Transmilenio’s speed. The faster speed of the metro means more capacity.
What will be the capacity?
It will move about 60,000 people an hour in each direction. It’s huge.