Havana In Our Time: Developing Urban Design and Planning Strategies for Change

Havana, Cuba, once known as the Pearl of the Antilles, is facing unprecedented pressure for change from increasing tourism, foreign economic interests and the likelihood of an end to the US embargo. How the Cuban Government might balance the pressures of its growing tourist industry and expanding real estate development interest from abroad against the preservation of Havana\’s historic urban fabric form the basis of this semester\’s challenge. Tourism, accounting for one-third of Cuba\’s economy, is driving the speculative development of office buildings, hotels and other related facilities but Havana\’s infrastructure — of services and buildings — is largely obsolete and is thus unable to support most of the anticipated new development. Havana\’s collection of buildings dating from the colonial period to the modern era of the 1960\’s remains completely intact, but is severely deteriorated, awaiting preservation and renewal. This studio will study Havana\’s physical environment and propose planning guidelines and urban design strategies to address sensitive growth issues. New development in Havana must be viable economically and socially but it must also be sustainable and respectful of the city\’s unique natural and built environment. This will be the fifth Havana related design studio sponsored by the GSD and directed by Professor Cott since 1999. Working under his direction through the Department of Urban Planning and Design, students will study Havana\’s 450-year history as a planned city and the forces of change that threaten it. Students will propose \”protective\” urban design and planning measures followed by a series of design case studies. All of Havana will be considered, but attention will be focused on four districts of the city: the harbor customs house district and its outdated cruise ship facilities; the Malecon, Havana\’s historic seaside boulevard: La Rampa, Havana\’s 1950\’s pre-revolution modern casino and nightclub district; and the Paseo del Prado, Havana\’s most beautiful street redesigned early in the 20th Century by noted landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forrestier. United States law prohibits short-term student travel to Cuba and although one-week travel to Havana was permitted during the earlier studios, it appears that this will not be possible at this time. The studio will rely on previous studio publications and on Professor Cott\’s photographic and base map collection of Havana as well as his personal accounts and professional contacts there. Professor Mario Coyula a prominent Cuban architect / urbanist and former visiting critic at the GSD and architect Julio Cesar Perez, a former GSD Loeb Fellow will be available via email from Havana. Lectures on Havana\’s urban environment, its colonial and modern architecture and a film series will be offered by Professor Cott throughout the semester. . The future of Havana is of critical interest to Cuban planners, architects and public officials who are increasingly concerned about the negative effects of unplanned or explosive growth on the city\’s fragile environment. The results of this semester\’s work will be published and distributed in Havana. This studio is open to all GSD students who have an interest in thinking about urban design, architecture, planning and landscape architecture at a broad scale. Students are expected to draw on their considerable skills and interests in their respective fields of study and will be expected to possess a high-degree of design interest and ability along with essential two and three-dimensional representational proficiency. Studio Organization and Schedule1.Weeks 1-3: Research will be undertaken to raise student\’s knowledge about the studio subject. 2.Weeks 4-7: Formulation of planning guidelines and urban design strategies 3.Weeks 8-13: Development of architecture and urban design case studies.