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Ethan Seaman ’14 Gets Sponsorship for Haiti Research

June 6, 2014
Ethan Seaman ’14 and Prof. Peter Temple
Ethan Seaman ’14 and Prof. Peter Temple

In July, newly minted alum Ethan Seaman, who graduated with a BS in Architecture this May, will be heading to Haiti, under the sponsorship of California-based architect Bruce Norelius, to conduct research on a building project for the country's Central Plateau.

How'd that happen? Well, it all started back in the spring 2013 semester when a group of architecture students in the Communicorps class took on the challenge of designing a much needed vocational school for the Central Plateau. Associate Professor of Architecture Peter Temple set up the project through his work with the Boston chapter of Architecture for Humanity (AfHB) and a Boston-area Haitian non-profit, the Organization for Support to the Development of Plateau Central (OSDPC).

A few months ago, Norelius, who also has an office in Maine, contacted AfHB and told them he would like to sponsor an architecture student who is interested in working in developing countries, to give that student some actual project experience overseas. Although the AfHB has a number of ongoing projects around the world, including in Africa and Nepal, Keene State is the only school that has architecture students working on any of those projects.

When AfHB contacted Prof. Temple and asked him to nominate a student for this award, he immediately thought of Seaman. "Ethan has been an outstanding A student who was active as treasurer of the Architecture Club and is very committed to sustainable design," Prof. Temple explained. "He came to me a couple of years ago and expressed his interest in working in developing countries, as he had heard about the work that I have been doing in that area. As a result, I enlisted him to work on our ongoing project of designing the vocational school for the Central Plateau. Ethan worked on this last fall and helped me give a presentation at ABX, the annual conference and trade show sponsored by the Boston Society of Architects." Seaman also attended meetings with AfHB and OSDPC and worked with the other students on the project to continue to development the design.

"The trip will primarily educate me in Haitian culture, architecture, and construction methods," Seaman said. "We plan to be there for the ground-breaking ceremony of the vocational school campus. I have not been informed whether or not I will be helping with the actual work on the campus, although I would jump at the opportunity to lend a hand."

Seaman's enthusiasm and skills make him perfect for this project. His major trained him well to work as an architectural designer. "I learned to sketch, design, and allocate space functionally, thoughtfully, and aesthetically," he explained. "My Sustainable Design class taught me how to design a space specifically for a particular site—and in the case of the Plateau Central Vocational School, a very different climate. I've also learned the importance of renewable energies and how they can be used to make a space sustainable and resilient. I developed these skills throughout my junior year before getting involved with OSDPC and AfHB. By the time this opportunity was presented to me, I was confident in what I was doing and more than excited to get involved."

Seaman was also an Environmental Studies minor, which perfectly complimented his interest in sustainable design. "When dealing with any site to be developed it is important to consider the environmental factors," he said.  "What I learned in my Environmental Studies classes gives me a strong advantage here. Both disciplines have taught me the importance of considering the culture and the environment when designing a structure."