04-25-17

The Student Perspective : CUBA

This year’s Spring Studio, The International Design Exchange (INDEX) Studio is a graduate design studio established to build an understanding of global urban issues.The studio explores strategies for urban regeneration revealed through a comparative analysis of Cleveland, Ohio and Havana, Cuba. The studio functions as a timely conduit for the exchange of ideas between the two cities. As part of the studio, four graduate students traveled to Cuba, during spring break, to strengthen the research and relationships established with architects and architecture students and the University of Havana. Two of the students, Reuben Shaw II and Randy Hoover, shared their experience and work with us. Here is their perspective:

Reuben Shaw II, Master of Landscape Architecture

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Cuba was never on my list of countries to visit. Stories about the taboos of the society and the government subconsciously blocked this island nation from my view. I’ve visited a few of the Caribbean Islands but still, Cuba was invisible. During my stay in Havana, I realized that Cuba was one of the most unique and beautiful places I have ever been, not only aesthetically, but culturally and socially. The proverb, “Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times” became a reality.

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Fanguito neighborhood in Havana, Cuba

While working on the Havana studio project in Cleveland, it was a challenge to really grasp our site with aerials; as landscape architecture students, most of our taught site-analysis techniques were void. Flying to Cuba and walking the streets of the Fanguito neighborhood really gave us a perspective that added to our repertoire. We discovered a sense of place that was generated by the people and an empirical expression of culture that you could only get by asking questions and adopting the lifestyle of the residents.

This opportunity to travel to Cuba was truly inspiring and has fueled my desire to travel and experience other cultures. I believe when you travel you learn as much about yourself as you do about the place. Knowledge of self not only enriches your being but that of the people around you.

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Proposed wetland preserve and aquatic bird habitat along the Almendares River in Havana, Cuba

Randy Hoover, Master of Architecture

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Five days is a short time in which one can be expected to engage with the unique cultural and economic values in a city like Havana, but I believe this trip was successful in that regard. Stepping out onto Cuban soil was not, as some of my friends back home predicted, like stepping back in time to a land where technology and science ceased to progress. Once you look past the aesthetic value of colorful old cars on the road you begin to see Cuba’s development over the last decades as an alternate timeline, similar to our own, where resources are more scarce but vitality and variety of life are never sacrificed.

(Now don’t get me wrong, riding from one side of Havana to the other in a candy-coated Pontiac is something that should be experienced by every visitor to the island.)

Our studio design/research project for the semester focused on an intervention near the Almendares River in El Vedado district of Havana. This land is known as the less affluent part of town and in every way but its social structure can be considered a slum. In order to operate from thousands of miles away with little on-site experience, our group focused on projective interventions that could be built by accretion and overlay of infrastructural services. By developing a simple self-built housing prototype that connected its infrastructure to a central square, we could game out the look of our neighborhood intervention in abstraction without bulldozing over the existing social and economic complexities of the neighborhood.

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Cuadriculita 008: The central concrete pad provides infrastructural connections for surrounding residents.

The realistic conditions of a site are, of course, more complex than what can be assumed from a satellite image or journal article. When we walked through the neighborhood of El Fanguito we were greeted by complete strangers with smiles and welcome conversation with our inquiring minds. Narrow alleyways and informal sidewalks contributed to a set of streetscapes that functioned almost identically to the winding paths we suggested in the Cuadriculita proposal, except of course that it was constructed with more care, personality, and efficiency. Once we walked out of the neighborhood and up the hill to a grand vista that overlooked all of the informal housing, my perspective of the project completely shifted.

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A small cluster of housing built against the peculiar topography separating El Fanguito from El Vedado.

I expected this moment, of course, but maybe not in such an instantaneous fashion. The infrastructural connections were not perfect in every way but formed its own artistry out of the imperfections. Overlap of aesthetics and use-value with the homes were most apparent with bright blue water storage barrels and pigeon cages on some of the rooftops feeding PVC piping down into the invisible pathways and living spaces below. Our project’s assertion that an interior courtyard or open space was required in order to have a vibrant and connected lifestyle for each resident was dissolved after seeing this.

This INDEX studio travel opportunity is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was able to meet Cuban architectural contemporaries, sample the passionate lifestyle of residents, and bond with my trip-mates in sharing this experience of infinite value. I’d like to thank David Jurca, the CUDC, and Kent State University for this amazing opportunity.

The INDEX: CLExHAV Studio is part of the 2017 Creative Fusion program supported by The Cleveland Foundation. During the 2017 Spring Semester, the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) will continue a partnership launched by Kent State University last year with Havana-based architects Sofía Márquez Aguiar and Ernesto Jiménez of Fábrica De Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory), a vibrant community arts space housed in a repurposed cooking oil plant in Havana. The architects will work with the KSU Urban Design and Landscape Architecture graduate studio and a Cleveland Institute of Art Interior Architecture studio on design proposals for two neighborhood projects: one in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, where Fábrica De Arte Cubano is located, and another in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. In early April, Márquez Aguiar and Jiménez arrived in Cleveland to review the students’ design proposals for Vedado and will remain in Cleveland for one month as they work with students to generate and fabricate the project to be built in Glenville. A public Pop Up Event is scheduled at the Glenville site (1470 E. 105th, Cleveland) on Friday, May 5th from 6-9pm. All are welcome. Learn more and RSVP on the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/532579883796334/ 

09-13-16

INDEX Studio: Cleveland x Havana Report

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The INDEX studio examined the relationships between two cities–Cleveland, Ohio and Havana, Cuba. The 15-week studio took place in the spring of 2016 at Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC). By comparing these very different urban contexts, the studio provided new insights into familiar places and a better understanding of the challenges facing global cities.

Read and download the full report, written in English and Spanish, below.

Twelve graduate students generated proposals for a waterfront site in each of the two cities. The Cleveland site is the now-defunct Lakeshore Coal Plant, a monumental structure on a 60 acre site along the city’s eastern lakefront. The Havana counterpart is the Nico-Lopez Oil Refinery, a 500 acre facility still functioning as a refinery on the southeastern banks of Havana Bay.

Ash Pond ParkGraduate students Alexander Scott and Jordan Fitzgerald re-envisioned the Lakeshore Coal Plant as a regional destination for industrial arts preservation and production, located in close proximity to Cleveland’s University Circle arts and culture district.

Proposed Havana Bay Waterfront DevelopmentGraduate student Morgan Gundlach examined the opportunities to incorporate the 5′ (1.50 m) sea-level rise expected by 2100 by creating a dynamic ribbon of green spaces along Havana Bay’s waterfront.  

Students met with a range of design professionals and local experts while in Havana. These insights and direct observations gathered during the five day travel formed the basis of urban design proposals shown in the report. At the conclusion of the studio, students received feedback on their proposals from Cuban architects Ernesto Jimenez and Sofia Marquez Aguiar during the architects’ visit to Cleveland. The students’ design work will be exhibited in Havana, at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, in Spring 2017.

The INDEX Studio is part of the curriculum for the Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Design programs in Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED). Kent State is committed to global education and expanding the cultural literacy of our students. Cuba offers a remarkably complex and locally relevant range of design opportunities. This initial studio is a first step toward establishing relationships with colleagues and collaborators in Cuba.

View and download the full report below:

Support for the travelling studio was generously provided by The Cleveland Foundation.

05-19-16

Save the Date | June 9 | Ernesto Jiménez & Sofía Márquez Aguiar

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Thursday, June 9th the CUDC will welcome Ernesto Jiménez and Sofía Márquez Aguiar, architects at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) in Havana, Cuba. Ernesto and Sofia will present their architecture projects built in both Havana, Cuba and in Oporto, Portugal. Based on their experience as professional architects inside and outside Cuba, Ernesto and Sofia will share insights on potential collaboration between designers in Cleveland and Havana. The first half of the talk is titled, “Fabrica de Arte Cubano – A Never Ending Project”. They will discuss the history of the building that now serves as the headquarter of the cultural Fabrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory) project. This path is indispensable to understand the logic of intervention from conceptualization to its ever-unfinished realization. Unfinished because the project has the idea of mutation embedded since its genesis. The mutation generated by the fusion of all the arts.

Click here to RSVP for the event. 

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FAC is an artistic project driven by the need to rescue, support and promote the work of artists from all branches of art such as film, music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, photography, fashion, graphic design and architecture; that through their integration art / artist promote exchanges and direct approach between the public and the creator a massive scale.

The second half of the talk is titled, “Belomonte Studio, some projects”. This discussion contains part of the work done by Belomonte Studio during its ten years of existence, oriented to the development of various projects related to art, architecture and design, from a cross-sectional view; The studio was founded in 2004 by architects Ernesto Jimenez (Cuba) and Sofia Marques de Aguiar (Portugal), in the city of Porto, where they resided until 2013, then was established in Havana.

Ernesto Jiménez (La Habana, 1974)
Architect from Architecture Faculty, ISPJAE, (1996). Member of UNAIC and the Order of the Architects of Portugal (2009).
1996 – 1998> Department of Rehabilitation and Architectural Restoration of the National Center for Conservation, Restoration and Museology (CENCREM).
1999 – 2005> Company Filipe Oliveira Dias, architect.
2004> Foundation Belomonte Studio.
2007> Enterprise Vitrocsa and Jofebar.
2013> EICTV, San Antonio de los Baños. School of Cinema.
2013 – 2014> FAC, Cuban Art Factory.
Other works > Publications Grafic Design, Furniture Design and Architecture Photography.

Sofia Marques de Aguiar (Porto, 1973)
Architect> Art School of Porto (ESAP), (1998). Member of the Order of
Architects of Portugal (1998).
1993 – 2001> Atelier of architecture and urbanism, architect Manuel Marques de Aguiar.
1996 – 2005> CRUARB (urban rehabilitation of Porto as World Heritage city).
2004> Foundation of Belomonte Studio.
2013> EICTV San Antonio de los Baños, School of Cinema
2013 – 2014> FAC, Cuban Art Factory.
Other works> Painting, sculpture, illustration, jewelry, scenery and costume Design for Cinema

Visit our Eventbrite page to RSVP. 

Ernesto Jiménez and Sofía Márquez Aguiar
June 9, 2016
6-8 PM
Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, 1309 Euclid Ave., Suite 200, Cleveland, OH 44115

10-08-15

Havana: the future never happened by itself…

 

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On October 7th, the CUDC hosted a lecture by the influential Cuban architect and urban planner, Miguel Coyula. Professor Coyula is on the faculty at the University of Havana. In his lecture at the CUDC, he talked about Havana–past, present, and future. He organized his remarks around a central idea:

The future never happened by itself. It was created.

As many have observed, Havana is a city that feels fixed in time. Yet everything is on the verge of change. Buildings, infrastructure, and public spaces throughout the city are crumbling due to the decades-long embargo, widespread poverty, and a complex political system that allocates resources inefficiently. As foreign capital flows into Cuba at an accelerating rate, local entrepreneurs and outside investors are beginning to transform the city. The long term cultural effects and the physical form of the city in the future are as yet unknown. And Havana’s future is yet to be created.

 

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Professor Coyula is both optimistic and concerned about the future of Havana. He sees opportunities to learn from other cities; that every city can show you something, good or bad. But despite the outside pressures and international influences that will inevitably be part of Havana’s regeneration, his advice to architects and planners in Cuba is to:

Think Cuban. Be Cuban. Don’t imitate.

In the US, we’re on the outside looking in. But that too is about to change. Havana poses many complex questions…about architecture, real estate development, historic preservation, and infrastructure networks. We have a remarkable opportunity to both support reconstruction efforts in Havana with new technologies and design expertise, and simultaneously learn from the resourcefulness and tenacity of the many Cubans who’ve held their city together under difficult circumstances for the past six decades.

Havana remains a vibrant place, though the scale of disinvestment feels overwhelming at times. But there’s good reason for optimism and the US and Cuba gradually rediscover each other.

The Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design and the CUDC are exploring opportunities to engage our students, faculty, and research staff in Cuban design issues. In March of 2015, CAED Dean Doug Steidl and CUDC Director Terry Schwarz traveled to Havana with Jorge Delgado and James Thompson of the Joaquin Weiss Institute. The purpose of this trip was to observe the physical environment of the city and provide initial reactions about how future development might evolve. We also used the trip to explore ideas for future academic programs. Our findings are summarized in a report: CUBA_observations.

The CUDC is grateful to Kent State University President Lester Lefton who provided support for Miguel Coyula’s visit to Cleveland, and also to KSU Professor Anne Morrison who organized the event. Anne is organizing a study trip to Cuba from December 31, 2015 – January 8, 2016. If you’d like to see Cuba for yourself, contact Anne at amorriso[at]kent.edu for more information.

09-22-15

Miguel Coyula Lecture | October 7th

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Miguel Coyula is an architect, urban planner, and professor at the University of Havana. He will give a comprehensive overview of Havana from its origins to the present, ending with an open question shared by many people these day: What kind of city will Havana be in the coming years?

The event will be held at:

Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative
Kent State University
Euclid Avenue, Suite 200
Cleveland, Ohio 44115
Directions to the CUDC

Following Professor Coyula’s talk, there will be a light dinner catered by Earth Bistro Café featuring contemporary American cuisine with a Cuban flair. This event is free and made possible by KSU President Emeritus Lester Lefton, but REGISTRATION is required.

For any inquiries regarding the event, please contact the CUDC.

 

05-21-15

Urban Agriculture in Cuba: film + talk

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Please join us for a brown bag lunch talk with Cuban agronomist Isis Salcines along with a screening of the film, Tierralismo

This free event will take place at the CUDC (1309 Euclid Avenue, Suite 200) on May 27 from noon-1pm. Please bring your lunch–we’ll provide drinks and snacks.

About the film…

TIERRALISMO A film by Alejandro Ramirez Anderson

On the outskirts of Havana, sandwiched between highways and public housing, a revolution is taking place. Here, in the district of Alamar, a 26-acre farming co-op provides employment for dozens of workers, while producing vegetables and medicinal plants for the local community and beyond.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, Cuba was no longer able to access machinery and agricultural chemicals from its former Communist allies. In this difficult environment, the government relaxed economic rules and allowed the formation of cooperatives like the Organopónico Vivero Alamar.

What began as necessity—farming without pesticides and chemical fertilizers—has become a source of pride to coop members. They fertilize with compost and cow manure, raise their own insects for biological pest control, and have even created a fully biodegradable alternative to the plastic bag for use with seedlings.

Tierralismo introduces us to everyone from agronomists and senior management to workers who plant, plow, and propagate. The film also covers non-farming aspects of the operation, such as human resources and accounting practices where transparency is paramount.

Lovingly photographed, TIERRALISMO offers a behind-the-scenes portrait of the Organopónico Vivero Alamar and a stirring defense of the importance of farm work and sustainable farming practices.

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About the speaker…

Following the film, Isis Salcines, Projects Coordinator in the Projects and Investments Office at the Organoponico, will give a presentation about her work. Ms. Salcines holds an advanced studies degree in Agricultural Engineering and has been with Organoponico since 1998. During her time at the cooperative, she has launched a new food preservation project and has focused on the marketing and distribution of local organic produce to domestic and international markets.

For more information about the event, please contact the CUDC here.

04-20-15

Spring Lecture Series | Terry Schwarz

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CUDC LUNCH TALK

Terry Schwarz

Friday, April 24th 12-1pm

CUDC Conference Room, 1309 Euclid Avenue, Suite 200

Event is free and all are welcome!

Click here to RSVP.

Cuba–hasta siempre

Havana, Cuba is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, despite decades of disinvestment in its historic architecture and civic infrastructure. As diplomatic relations begin to improve between the US and Cuba and the long-standing trade embargo is lifted, foreign investment will pour into Havana. The rapid influx of new money and ideas may help to stabilize Havana, but will also inevitably disrupt and transform the city in unpredictable ways.

Last month, Doug Steidl, Dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at Kent State, and Terry Schwarz, Director of KSU’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, traveled to Cuba at the invitation of Hiram College and the Joaquín Weiss Institute. At Friday’s lunch talk, Terry will discuss some emerging opportunities for design and urban regeneration in Havana.

To RSVP, please click here. (RSVPs encouraged, but not required.)

For more information, please contact us at cudc@kent.edu or (216) 357-3434.

01-27-14

James Thompson Lunch Lecture | Jan 31

Garfield Scholars group led by James Thompson (lower right) in front of a fountain at the Plaza de San Francisco in Old Havana, Cuba. Photo credit: Hiram College

Join us January 31st at the CUDC for a Friday Lunch Lecture by James Thompson entitled, Designing the Future: Politics, Architecture, and the Cuban Aesthetic Question.

James Thompson is Associate Professor in Political Science at Hiram College. He received his Bachelor’s of Arts from Saint Mary’s College of California, and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame. Thompson specializes in International Relations and Political Theory.

The event is free and open to the public. RSVPs appreciated at: cudc@kent.edu

Friday, January 31st
12:15PM – 1:15PM
Kent State CUDC
1309 Euclid Avenue, Suite 200
(Playhouse Square, Downtown Cleveland)