Today’s Chapo Ba goes out to Joseph Albert Mangonès, born the son of Fernande Elisabeth Auguste and Philippe Auguste Edmond Mangonès on March 26, 1917 in Port-au-Prince.
Like most seeds of Haitian elite progeny, Albert Mangonès was sent away to study abroad, in his case to Belgium, at Académie royale des beaux-arts de Bruxelles—one of Europe’s most prestigious insitutions. From there it was at Cornell University in New York, where he studied architecture, and was part of the Class of 1942 (while there, he received a Medallion for excellence).
While in New York, Mangonès was active in social circles along with other Haitian expatriates, and other international intellectuals. Anais Nin, the famed French novelist and surrealist would write in her diary of Mangonès: (later published in the book Diary Of Anais Nin Volume 3 1939-1944: Vol. 3 1939-1944) wrote this of him, during a party she threw for Canada Premice, a Haitian exile and father of the dancer/performer Josephine Premice:
“Albert Mangonès is almost white (his mother was Spanish), an ivory white, with softly waved hair, soft burning eyes, a soft voice. He has just won the gold medal for architecture at Cornell.”
Mangonès is mentioned in another entry in Nin’s diary, dating March 1943:
“Mangonès invited us to his studio for dinner. He invited my other Haitian friends too. Mangonès is twenty six. He could easily pass for a Spaniard or a Cuban, but he does not deny his African father. His skin is the color of coffee with much milk and a touch of gold. His mouth is full, soft, and sensuous. His hair dark and sensuous. He is gay, sincere, natural. He looks made for pleasure, but he is planning to return to Haiti, to build low-income housing.”
[Whoa, sounds like Ms. Nin was crushing on our little architect!]
But return to Haiti he did, and upon his return to Haiti, Mangonès gained fame over the years for his building several noteworthy structures, and renovating others, including the Haitian National Cathedral.
In the personal arena, Albert Mangonès married Emmelyne Bonnefil in 1944; they were later divorced and he married Vonik Tourdot in 1959, and they remained married until his death (she died in Petionville in 2006).
In the late 1970s, Mangonès increasingly concerned with preserving national monuments in Haiti, and preserving Haitian heritage sites founded Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National—ISPAN for short. Mangonès was heavily involved with restoring the Palais San Souci that King Christophe had built in the 1800s, as well as other historical places in Cap Haitian and in the capital the Parc National Historique.
In the next decade, the American Institute of Architecture honored Mangonès for his accomplishments over the course of his career.
A month and short a day after his 85th birthday, Albert Mangonès died at his home in Martissant, a modest architectural wonder he had himself conceptualized and built.
Mangones photo via: