Photo: Emma Villedrouin
Born in Haïti in 1937, Pierre-Richard Villedrouin graduated in 1964 with an architecture degree from UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México.) His early career was spent working in Manhattan architecture firms. In 1971 he had an opportunity to return to his homeland and, since then, has brought his modern style, devoid of clichés, to the island.
Though Villedrouin was deeply influenced by his Spanish professor, Félix Candela, and the works of the Italian Pier Luigi Nervi, he brings his personal and locally rooted take to all of his work. He is sensitive to materials and uses what is on hand to great advantage. His designs honor the locally produced limestone blocks, clay bricks and traditional white wash. He is a defender of fiberglass, which is durable, nearly unbreakable and allows a building to breathe while allowing light in. Villedrouin has always been a proponent of sustainable architecture. Over the years he has perfected an ingenious construction method based on the exploration
of domes, pyramids and vaulted ceilings which are created by interconnecting triangular beams, minimizing both coffering and cement- which is crucial to the stewardship of limited resources in a country such as Haïti.
Villedrouin is an "old school" architect. His ideas express themselves with energetic sketches and elaborate maquettes. Of late he has had a fruitful collaboration with Nicolas Wiener who happens to be his nephew and a skilled architect based in São Paulo, Brazil. Their innovative plans for the Basilique de la Medaille Miraculeuse and the Edifice Triade are projects that, if realized, would greatly enhance Haïti's cultural landscape.
Villedrouin is perfectly attuned to the syncretic influences of his island home. An adept can perceive the influence of Voodoo and its symbols in his work. An undulating wall echoes the serpent god Damballah’s rhythmic slither. The cross like layout of his masterful Lycée Tertulien Guilbaud in Port de Paix mirrors a vévé for Legba (the god of the crossroads of the Voodoo Pantheon associated to Saint Peter.)
Another distinguishing aspect of Villedrouin's work is its immoderate physicality. Pools are deep and curvy and, at times, Olympic sized. Curved bedroom walls soothe and embrace. You might turn a corner into a living room and be stunned by a cathedral high ceiling. His famed cantilevered Belvédère thrusts itself off a steep mountain face like a dare.
Villedrouin is a man constantly searching and investigating the minute to the esoteric, all of which feeds his prismatic subconscious. He expresses in stone and concrete powerful impulses and translates dreams into enjoyable spaces. He is an original artist, a sculptor of space.