Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.Arch.

Degree Granting Department

Architecture and Community Design

Major Professor

Theodore Trent Green, M.Arch.

Keywords

Modern, Contemporary, Urban, Fabric, Old architecture

Abstract

Architecture around the world has been very influential for determining the historical background of many cities. The architecture of the city of Havana in Cuba is etched with unique historical forces and signature buildings. This architecture embodies local reproductions of Western and European styles. The superimposing of Western and European styles led to the formation of a "strange baroquism" that defined the "lasting features of the overall idiosyncrasy of the city." Since Cuba's change of government in the 1950s, architecture has progressed very little. From the day Castro took power, Havana's skyline has hardly altered. After the fall of the former Soviet Union, Cuba had to rely heavily on its own resources and many projects begun in the 1980s had to be halted and still remain unfinished today. Many new buildings in Havana suffer from under investment, lack of resources and little vision.

Of the one third of architects who stayed in Cuba after the Revolution their work is mostly limited to tourist hotels or restaurants, catering for the 1 million visitors every year. Most of them do not reflect or adhere to Cuba's rich historical past. Historical preservationists all over the world decided to inscribe La Habana Vieja into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982. They launched a safeguarding campaign a year later to restore the authentic x character of the buildings. While it is important to keep Havana's old charm, it is also imminently necessary to revitalize and meet the needs and functions of a modern society.

The dilemma faced by architectural designers is best stated by Paul Ricoeur when he said that the challenge lies in ''how to become modern and to return to sources (while) reviving an old, dormant civilization (in order for it to) take part in a universal civilization." My project will focus on the integration of current needs, functions and modern architecture with the city's old architecture. The desirable site will be located on a public destination in Old Havana. It will focus on how the old and the new architecture will physically connect while meeting the characteristics of new uses and adaptive reuses of existing buildings. This research will be conducted by analyzing the site's existing conditions, by choosing contemporary uses that are missing within the city's structure, by analyzing other projects with similar conditions, and by doing an overall research on existing architectural, economic, and social issues that are related to Old Havana's development.

This revitalization will create a new Havana that will preserve its value while meeting modern standards and architectural functionality.

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