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L’Education du Regard—Archifest 2013

In early 2013, Etienne Telemaque, a Haitian architect and urban planner living in New York, approached WMF to help with an exhibit and lecture about Haitian architecture he was planning at the Queens Museum of Art. For the past several years, Mr. Telemaque has organized annual events at the museum to educate the Haitians living in New York and others about the rich art and architectural traditions of the island nation most often in the news today to talk about the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. This year’s theme was the “gingerbread” houses, a subject familiar to WMF as a result of the inclusion in the World Monuments Watch of the Gingerbread Neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince in 2010 and 2012 and its ongoing collaboration with FOKAL (Fondation Connaissance et Liberté) on a crafts training program intended to revive the skills needed for the construction and restoration that traditional architectural style in Haiti. The event took place on a Sunday afternoon and combined a display of original paintings of gingerbread houses by Eric Girault, architectural photography produced by children from Jacmel as part of a Watch Day student workshop organized by FOTOKONBIT , and several lectures presented by Haitian professionals. Farah Hyppolite, an architect from the FOKAL team, flew in from Port-au-Prince for the event, and presented an impassioned plea to preserve the threatened gingerbread architecture, while Magali Regis, an architect living in New York, discussed the future of Haitian architecture. Their talks were preceded by a sobering account by Elsie Guibert of the current health problems in Haiti caused by poor living conditions resulting from the 2010 earthquake. The audience responded with gasps of dismay at the depressing statistics, pride at the sight of beautiful gingerbread houses, and enthusiastic applause for the new housing designs developed by Haitian architects. The Queens Museum event was accompanied by abundant food, courtesy of Mrs. Telemaque, and music by Victor Surpris and Jocelyne Dorisme. A feeling of hope for the future could be sensed within the audience. WMF’s contribution to the event and to the preservation of Haitian architecture was greatly appreciated and publicly recognized by the presentation of an award. This token, now sitting on my window sill, will be a constant reminder that WMF’s work in the preservation field, even through the smallest of gestures, does make a difference in people’s lives.