In a new book, Architecture by Moonlight: Rebuilding Haiti, Redrafting a Life, Paul Fallon ’77, SM ’81, MArch ’81 recounts his two-year challenge to help design, plan, and build an orphanage with the Gengel family in honor of their daughter who died in the 2010 earthquake.
Published just ahead of the five-year anniversary of the natural disaster, the book tells one of the many compelling stories of Americans trying to help. “It’s a positive story,” says Fallon, “and we need more positive stories about Haiti.” Listen to Fallon discuss the book in this Alumni Books Podcast.
“The thing about Haiti that’s very hard to convey in this country is that it is magical,” Fallon says. “Haiti is magical. It’s deforested and it’s ugly and it’s poor but it’s also mystical and spiritual and deep. It’s just phenomenal to think that people lead such rich and deserving lives that are so different than our own.”
Like many, Fallon felt the need to contribute in 2010, but the earthquake troubled him on an intellectual plain, too. “So many people died because of the buildings,” he says.
In the podcast, Fallon connects his time in Haiti to his experiences starting out at MIT.
“It reminded me of freshman year at MIT, where you’re not pass/fail, you’re pass/no-pass. That is what I experienced on the job sites. In Creole, if someone makes a mistake, you don’t say ‘mal,’ or bad, you just say ‘pas bon.’ That’s really what freshman year at MIT is about. It’s about pass or keep working it and you will pass. It’s an attitude about failure.”
“And that attitude is what helped us succeed in Haiti. When things went bad or came up short every day, you would just say ‘pas bon’ and you’d come back at it and work at it. I really feel like that’s an integral aspect of MIT. Failure is not even in the vocabulary, that’s what I liked. And then I found that failure is not in the vocabulary of Haiti. I never said ‘mal’ to anyone, I said ‘pas bon.’ A lot.”