Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cuba Libre: Contemporary Architecture in Havana

By Julia Cooke, via Design Observer

Havana is renowned for its faded elegance: colonial facades pocked with humidity, ornate structures left to crumble, chipped paint and climbing vines. It’s a stately wreck of a city that’s stuck in the past, and even when fresh energy and capital are poured into the urban fabric, the goal is usually historic preservation. But Claudia Castillo and Orlando Inclán have a different future in mind. In a revolt against nostalgia, they’ve launched a series of initiatives aimed at pushing contemporary architecture into the public discourse: a radio show, a newly formed professional organization and, most recently, a published dossier of projects on paper designed by themselves and a small core of their fellow young Cuban architects. 
“Our objective is to show that there are people thinking about contemporary architecture,” says Inclán. 
You wouldn't know it by looking around you. Nearly all of the local building projects are restorations of vintage structures controlled by the busy Office of the Historian of Havana, where Inclán is the director of the urban design department and where Castillo also works. The rare new construction often apes colonial architecture, resulting in a Disneyland-ish feeling downtown. Architects have few chances to practice outside of state jobs — neither architecture nor industrial design was listed among the nearly 200 professions legally privatized in Cuba’s recent economic reforms. (Since the Cuban government provides university education, professions that require degrees — medicine, law, architecture — remain in the public sector.) As a result of the scant opportunities for development, the majority of design-minded professionals leave the country. 

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1 comment:

  1. Cuba is so interesting right now. I love the book "Habana Libre". I'm so happy it came out.
    I love the work that Michael does and the creative side to Havana that no one has herd about until now.