Havana Studio

This Studio course will focus on the analysis of threats to Havana’s heritage in the wider context of building an urban strategy. Cuba and particularly the metropolitan area of Havana are experiencing rapid change, including economic liberalization, arrival of new technologies, and global flows including tourism. Meanwhile, the cityscape of Havana has come to wide attention among architects, historians, and urban preservationists for several reasons. Firstly, it has been somewhat frozen in time since the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and has not been affected by such common urban practices as cutting highways through existing neighborhoods, or leveling deteriorated communities for the construction of out-of-scale large modern housing blocks. This has generally left intact a rich 400-year old architectural legacy reflecting the wealth accumulated while Havana was the principal embarkation point for the Treasure Fleets of Colonial Spain and later as one of the world’s major sources of raw sugar. Nevertheless, the frozen cityscape has come to be an environment of severe physical hardship for the occupants of gravely degenerating structures (at least 500 buildings collapse each year) amid widely failing infrastructure. Such slum-like conditions pock-mark the cityscape. Will a wave of much-needed economic revitalization bring with it the destruction of this singular environment? Or can Havana develop policies that support concurrently its economic growth, social justice, and the conservation of its heritage? Students will learn and apply techniques to assess urban heritage and key elements such as infrastructure, spatial form, and local and neighborhood management. This course will be offered within the Cities and Social Justice concentration of the GPIA and will include visiting specialists on specific aspects of these challenges. The course will include a two week workshop in Havana in June 2018.

Students conducted a site survey of historical buildings in the community of Regla

“While Colonial Havana crumbles mid a flood of foreign tourist dollars, just across the harbor the residents of Regla renew their modest townscape often by informal means, fostering a beauty which the Havana Studio has articulated in a photographic survey of 6,000 images to catalogue an Arquitectura Popular Cubana.”
Anthony Tung
Co-Faculty Supervisor

Faculty Supervisors

This studio course will focus on the analysis of threats to Havana’s heritage in the wider context of building an urban strategy. Cuba and particularly the metropolitan area of Havana are experiencing rapid change, including economic liberalization, arrival of new technologies, and global flows including tourism. Meanwhile, the cityscape of Havana has come to wide attention among architects, historians, and urban preservationists for several reasons. Firstly, it has been somewhat frozen in time since the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and has not been affected by such common urban practices as cutting highways through existing neighborhoods, or leveling deteriorated communities for the construction of out-of-scale large modern housing blocks. This has generally left intact a rich 400-year old architectural legacy reflecting the wealth accumulated while Havana was the principal embarkation point for the Treasure Fleets of Colonial Spain and later as one of the world’s major sources of raw sugar. Nevertheless, the frozen cityscape has come to be an environment of severe physical hardship for the occupants of gravely degenerating structures (at least 500 buildings collapse each year) amid widely failing infrastructure. Such slum-like conditions pock-mark the cityscape. Will a wave of much-needed economic revitalization bring with it the destruction of this singular environment? Or can Havana develop policies that support concurrently its economic growth, social justice, and the conservation of its heritage? Students will learn and apply techniques to assess urban heritage and key elements such as infrastructure, spatial form, and local and neighborhood management.

The course will include a two week workshop in Havana in June 2018.

Students will work in association with the renowned Office of the Historian of the City of Havana as they create a master plan for the city’s World Heritage Harbor Zone comprised of landmarked urban areas interspersed with natural landscapes, ancient fortifications, and industrial and working harbor issues.

This studio can support: Thesis Supervision, Practicum in International Affairs, Research Portfolio.

Click here to see work completed from the Spring 2018 semester! Students traveled to Havana, Cuba to conduct fieldwork. 

Click here to see work completed from the Spring 2018 semester! Students traveled to Havana, Cuba to conduct fieldwork.