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Healing Borders

Between the Dominican Republic and Haiti



David Gouvernour

Ariel Vazquez

Azarai Hernandez

Itay Porat

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(top) The Binational Market in Dajabón, Dominican Rejpublic
Pepillo Salcedo

This interdisciplinary studio between City Planning and Landscape Architecture students, focused on addressing urban, ecological, economic, and social challenges in three towns located in the Dominican Republic along the border with Haiti. These nations share the island of La Hispaniola, the second largest in the Caribbean basin, spanning over 29,418 square miles. The DR-Haitian border stretches for 244 miles, following the Dajabón River in the North and the Pedernales River in the South. The selected sites for this interdisciplinary and intercultural studio were Pepillo Salcedo, Jimaní, and Pedernales, chosen by the Directorate for Border Area Development, Ministry of Economy, Planning, and Development, Dominican Republic.

For over a century, Haiti has been burdened by colonial debts, political struggles, economic collapse, and natural disasters. In July 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home, plunging the country further into unprecedented economic and political turmoil. The outfall from this crisis continues to strain the lives and wellbeing of Haitians, leading many to seek refuge through migration to the Dominican Republic.

Long-standing political and racial conflicts between the nations, rooted in the oppressive violence of colonial and authoritarian regimes, have been re-surfacing in the Dominican government’s response to Haitian migration. The border region is located away from the main urban and economic centers of the Dominican Republic, but has become a focal point in national politics. In 2022, the Dominican Army, with the support of President Luis Abinader, began constructing a wall, which is planned to span nearly half the length of the border. By the time our Studio visited in October 2022, the Army had completed initial earthwork for the wall, cutting through mangrove wetlands in Pepillo Salcedo and informal settlements in Pedernales. 

Despite broader political agendas, the daily life of residents in the Border region is deeply tied to the transnational exchange of culture, commerce, and solidarity between Haitians and Dominicans. The heart of the regional and town economies is asystem of bi-national markets, where Dominicans and Haitians exchange and buy essential goods such as staple foods, fresh produce, clothing, household supplies, and handcrafted folk art. 

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The border towns are now the targets of ambitious economic development projects including a proposed industrial port expansion and power station in Pepillo Salcedo, an expansion of logistics infrastructure for the bi-national market in Jimaní, and a proposed $3 billion tourism resort, cruise port, and international airport at Cabo Rojo, just outside of Pedernales.  The prospect of these projects and the continued migration from Haiti are driving explosive population growth in the Dominican towns. This unplanned expansion is mostly taking the form of informal settlements at the towns’ peripheries. Many such  communities lack adequate infrastructural services, but their homes have been carefully and incrementally built by families over time.  Each group grappled with the balance between economics, ecology, politics, and community stability in planning for the region’s future growth.

During our visit we toured all three towns and hosted charette workshops with community leaders, government officials, local business representatives, elders, and youth.  We worked closely with them, drawing together on wall-sized maps, to understand their concerns and forefront their priorities in the rest of our work for the semester.  We channeled their dreams, struggles, and desires, along with the complex histories and politics of the region to produce plans for a future at the Dominican-Haitian border rooted in environmental justice and healing.


Aidan Rhianne McLaughlin, 
Azarai Hernandez, Itay Porat, 
Kristin Engelman, Marissa Sayers, 
Vyusti Agrwalla, Yan Wang

Pepillo Salcedo

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Pepillo Salcedo, commonly also referred to as Manzanillo, is a coastal town of 3,700 people located in the northwestern-most corner of the DR, within the Monte Cristi province.  The town is surrounded by estuarine mangrove habitats of the Dajabón River and the Estero Balsa.  Pepillo Salcedo is the DR’s closest port city to the United States.  The US Navy occupied Pepillo Salcedo in 1916 and established the US Grenada Company, a banana plantation with an industrial port, railway infrastructure, and crowded blocks of worker housing.  The town is now slated for large-scale industrial redevelopment, including an expansion to the Port of Manzanillo, an 800 megawatt power station, and a liquified natural gas pipeline.

The plan focuses on creating a green system that harmoniously integrates residential, industrial, and ecological systems. This includes protected areas, habitat restoration, water management, civic open spaces, and buffers between urban uses. It also retrofits the town’s cultural landscape by converting old banana company warehouses and rail-yards into communal services, recreation, markets, and vocational training opportunities. The plan defines areas for urban expansion to accommodate residents from overcrowded and unfit dwellings and establishes siting, design, and performative criteria for industrial development to ensure minimum environmental impact and maximum benefits for the local people.

Green Armature
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Water System
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Mobility System
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New Street Typologies
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New Housing Typologies
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Repurposed Banana Warehouse


David Kim, Elliot Bullen, Jie Li, 
Kemi Richards, Simran Arora, 
Stephanie Onuaja, Yihan Zhang, 
Zahara Ahmadi


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Environmental Conditions in Jimaní

Jimaní is a town of 18,466 people, located in the valley between Lake Enriquillo and Lake Azuei in the DR’s Independcia Province.  The town is a major transnational connection to Haiti’s capital city of Port Au Prince, which is only 53km away.

The plan aims to guide urban growth towards reconnecting fragmented neighborhoods, mitigating sprawl, and improving pedestrian conditions by providing consolidated housing, green buffer zones, siphon protection, and a public transit network. Additionally, it focuses on strengthening natural systems through floodplain management, reforestation, and wetlands restoration to build climate resilience and reinforce the community’s relationship with their landscape. The plan also fosters economic development by adapting local markets, introducing an industrial zone, protecting agricultural land, and creating green trails to boost ecotourism. Finally, it supports civic life, health, and cohesion through the establishment of new civic spaces, expansion of existing recreation facilities, enhancement of children’s education programs, and the creation of a hospital to aid the local and migrant population.

Plan for the Binational Market and Logistics Zone

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New Neighborhood Typologies

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Detail Plan of Urban Expansion and Agricultural Zones

Section View of the Río Blanco


Allison Lau, Aminah McNulty,  Carlos Gonzalez,  Emma Sonner, 
Jackson Plumlee, Jie Wang, Kate Poor, Kendra Hills, Myron Banez, Sanjana Purohit, Símón Gutkin


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Proposed Plan of Pedernales

Pedernales is a coastal town of 16,000 people located at the DR’s  furthest southwest corner.  The Haitian sister town of Anse-a-Pitres is located directly across the dry riverbed of the Pedernales River, which reaches the Carribean Sea.   Pedernales was established during the authoritarian regime of Rafael Trujillo, who sent military and agricultural settlers in the 1930s to fortify the town as part of his violent anti-Haitian border campaign.  Between 1942 and 1989, The town also became an outpost of the American Aluminum Company (ALCOA), which operated bauxite mines, processed ore, and shipped out of Cabo Rojo,   25km east of Pedernales.  The town is surrounded by subtropical dry forests, the Jaragua National Park, and has boat access to one of the country’s most pristine and remote white sand beaches, the Bahía de las Aguiles. Abundant natural assets that have attracted DR’s most ambitious public-private partnerships for tourism development to date, a $3 billion new resort development at Cabo Rojo, a cruise port, and international airport.

The plan aims to benefit the well-being and livelihoods of Dominicans and Hatians, partially by channeling tourism investment. To achieve this, the plan fosters a binational oasis by investing in existing networks of cross-border solidarity, and integrates social and recreational uses with flood control infrastructure. It also enhances the beachfront through a climate-adaptive framework for gathering, recreation, and commerce, with reimagined pedestrian circulation that strengthens current tourism cooperatives, local culture, and regional destinations. It also supports urban expansion through a flexible housing model that balances resident agency with organized urban development, while protecting agricultural land and sensitive ecological systems with public parks, bike trails, and institutional stewardship. Overall, the plan is a comprehensive and sustainable strategy that aims to foster a resilient community and promote sustainable growth for the future.

Urban Growth Settlement

Green Armature

Water System

Mobility System

Section through the Binantional Oasis on the Pedernales River

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