Conserving the Vivid Now
The project engages with the multifaceted issues of the two heritage sites in Havana through the design of a new urban quarter Nuevo Cubanacán within the site of Cuba’s National Art Schools. Conceived in a politically and economically complex moment in the modern history of Cuba, the architecture of the National Art Schools are one of the rare monuments of the post-revolutionary and pre-Soviet period. Despite this, the site is inaccessible for the curious visitors today. In order to maintain its status in the World Heritage tentative list, the deteriorating architectural fabric requires urgent conservation and access to funding. Meanwhile in the historic quarter of Old Havana, the difficulties of dealing with construction amidst the overpopulated urban quarter is a major limitation, slowing down the improvement of the living conditions of the residents.
In response to the present day societal needs, Nuevo Cubanacán capitalises on the booming international tourism and the rapidly-growing small business sector of Cuba. The architectural style of the housings are an eclectic hybrid of the forms of the 1960s and the materiality of the present day Havana vernacular. Rather than being rehoused in the temporary mass housings in the outskirts of city, the residents from Old Havana could become the new residents of the Nuevo Cubanacán. Residents take out a housing loan from the Office of Historians Nuevo Cubanacán for the construction of their homes and pay it back through running ‘casa particular’, a local bed and breakfast system, in their new homes.
Within this strategy, the opening and the active development of one heritage site helps safeguard the heritage value of another. By enabling the residents to be the active participants in the creation of this new neighbourhood of the post-Castro era, the result is a vivid conservation of a city freeing itself from the colonial imagery currently dominant in the historic quarter.
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2018