When it comes to rebuilding Haiti there are two categories of people: the talkers and the doers. Krystel Jäeger is a doer. Krystel’s dedication to her craft is reflective of her genuine love for the Haitian landscape, its people, and its potential.After obtaining her degree in architecture Krystel moved back to Haiti and went straight to work on various construction projects. Krystel’s career paths stunned many as she was one of the most requested models on the Haitian Fashion runways. Do not let her stunning appearance fool you, Krystel is as grounded as they come. She is as comfortable working on a construction site in her boots as she is walking down a fashion runway in 5inch heels. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce-reintroduce you to Architect Krystel Jäeger.
When we reached out to you a couple of months ago you mentioned that you recently received a degree in architecture and that your thesis project had a focus on Haiti, can you please tell us about that?
In order to complete my degree in architecture, I decided for the focus of my thesis to be on Haiti. I’ve always had a ‘penchant’ for this site, on route National #1 in the area now known as Canaan. Growing up I noticed that this site was becoming more and more populated, and right after the earthquake, it became a new city. Wanting to help my country and seeing the damage left behind by the 2010 earthquake I decided to draft a proposal focused on improvements that could be made to this area which would provide better living conditions for the people of Canaan.
Basically, the proposal was to organize a small city that would meet the basic needs of a small population by allowing them to cultivate the possible food they could grow in the area and also provide them with job opportunities.
On the same note, the proposal was to build and place container homes parallel to each other with an urban design system and consider affordable housing prototypes, and easy assembly that benefit the user flexibility and adaptability of the spaces.
After graduating from the Dominican Republic. I was called to participate in the Concours of the 9th Biennale FCAA Haiti to present this project and won second place.
How does one of the “best” (using the words of the one and only Kemissa Racine) models in Haiti end up with a degree in architecture?
Initially, modeling was nothing more than a hobby to me, and I loved it but growing up it was numbered and I had to find time for it. Soon after I moved to the Dominican Republic I realized that I was no longer into modeling, just like that… While finishing my high school abroad, I had more alone time and realized that I was highly affected by the environment. The relationship I had with people was the same relationship I had with objects and buildings. Growing up I always knew I had to be in the designs field. I connected the dots and soon came to a conclusion that I had to be an architect. I had to make a lot of sacrifices. I can literally count on one hand how many times I went to parties during that period. I always looked for opportunities to get ahead and was ready to seize them. When I started learning about architecture I started taking pride in the process and thoroughly enjoyed each phase of the projects. Completing well-done projects brought to me so much joy and satisfaction that it motivated me to learn more and push myself.
How did you pick Architecture as a career path?
It was when I was growing up in Haiti. I was always interested in remodeling my parents’ house, and I started thinking about different things I could do at a young age. I could spend days drawing my dream house that I would want to built one day but did not have a clue how to start back then. My drawings were never nice but at least I understood them.
Then I moved right after the earthquake to the Dominican Republic to finish my high school year and eventually stay there for college. I wanted to start with Interior design but felt that it wasn’t going to be enough for my passion and decided to go into architecture. It’s the feeling that one could intervene with the environment. As soon as I started studying architecture and creating houses, I was hooked; it became a calling. The way that I see architecture is one of the few professions that is never static.
By showing a commitment towards becoming an architect, I easily developed a passion for the subject and love for the profession. It made me competitive, resilient, disciplined and motivated.
One of the most important feelings I get is the possibility of having a positive impact on people’s lives. It’s so rewarding to develop a personal relationship with your client, particularly knowing that the process will yield a more fruitful end product.
Architecture is a lifestyle, not a job.
What is the inspiration for your architectural designs?
From a design perspective I look for inspiration everywhere; I can’t look at something and not think about the thought process behind the design. I get inspiration from art to traveling and even from the streets. Stepping away from a place will seek inspiration and lead to a whole new world of creative sources. I’m in architect because I notice the world around me… most of the time, the first thing I do when I walk into a house, restaurant or store, I start analyzing light fixtures, wall switches, handrails and even the door designs. I notice the details and I think details play a big role in architecture. I’ll probably have a hard time telling you the name of my favorite movie but I can sketch up a floor plan of your house after having walked through it once.
If there is a design I really like, I’ll want to figure out why I like it. But most importantly Frank Lloyd Wright is a great inspiration. I also admire Le Corbusier because I always react to his work.
What are your thoughts on the evolution of the Haitian Architectural Landscape?
Honestly, I’m not too excited to answer this question, it’s at the same time depressing but and exciting. Architecture in Haiti started off very good back in the 19th century, with the gingerbread houses, which is an amazing style from New Orleans with some inspiration from Europe. They used to fit with Haiti’sclimate with their high ceiling, wooden doors curved to the top and terraces. Unfortunately, they started disappearing very fast especially after the earthquake but now architecture in Haiti took a turn into modernism which is always a good aspect for evolving.
Do you have a favorite Haitian Artist? If so, who is it?
Not that I have a favorite Haitian artist but I really appreciate and admire Ronald Mevs’ art perspective. Seeing the truth of Haiti in an abstract way makes me realize all shapes and colors can blend together.
We hope you enjoyed our Q&A with Krystel Jäeger. If you want to keep up with Krystel’s work follow her on Instagram @architecte_Krysteljeager.
Photos courtesy of Krystel Jäeger