This page provides details about an integrated pathway studio from the Architecture - MArch programme

Call out: This studio seeks to develop imaginative and bold architectural thesis proposals for the Cuban capital, Havana: an island city caught in amber, yet emerging from insularity.

  • Integrated Pathway 2016-17
  • Studio Leaders: Adrian Hawker and Victoria Clare Bernie

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices that, if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Cuba lies 48 miles west of Haiti and 93 miles south of Florida. An island in the Caribbean, it hovers geologically and politically between North America, Central America and South America. A Spanish colony for some four centuries, it offered safe harbour for the trade in precious metals between the American mainland, Cadiz and ultimately Madrid. At the turn of the 19thcentury, following the Haitian slave rebellion, Cuba became the larder for an unremitting European sweet tooth founded on sugar cane cultivation and production. A monoculture that brought extreme wealth to a select few and with it, the mass enslavement and transportation of people from western Africa conveyed via the port of Liverpool to Havana, the capital city. Cuba is a strategic Island and Havana is a safe harbour whether for trade or military advancement. Throughout its history it has felt the relentless tug of Empire: Spain, Britain, The United States of America and the Soviet Union. As Fidel Castro’s 90thbirthday approaches, the Island and the city anticipate change.

As places of strategic importance, island territories such as Cuba are highly prized and, inevitably, colonised. Consequently, their cultural landscapes have evolved into complex hybrids, drawn from a net of diverse global connections – threads that become woven into the urban fabric of the island’s cityscapes and form the textural fenestration of their colonial façades. In an island, resources are limited and so levels of invention and re-articulation are high - a shipwreck is re-assembled as a church on a treeless archipelago or stone is cut and detailed like timber on a limestone landmass. Architecture operates within these landscapes with an intoxicating intensity, a remarkable interplay of invention and wit.

The urban form of the island territory city is inextricably linked to the landscape upon which it is founded. It is built from the material and mineral wealth of the land, it responds to the extremes and exposures of its climate. Island cities receive the ocean that surrounds them and the landscape that enfolds them, filtering, dredging and harvesting. Inevitably, fragments from other worlds, Gulf Streams and tidal anomalies, get caught in their fibres.

In 2016 the annual carnival on the Havana’s great seafront, the Malecón, celebrates the ninth decade of its revolutionary hero, Fidel Castro. It is a city caught in amber, in a 1950s stasis - its polychromatic skin potted with the weathering of high humidity, over population and low maintenance. One year ago, something shifted - the long-shuttered embassy of the United States of America reopened and Pope Francis performed a mass in Revolution Square below the mural relief of Che Guevara. Earlier this year, Barack Obama shook Raoul Castro’s hand and the Rolling Stones performed in the Coliseo de la Ciudad Deportiva stadium. Cuba is on the move, tentatively emerging from an extreme form of cultural, political and economic insularity - an insularity of trade and time, a result of decades of embargo. As bridges reform with the West, with the scions of past imperial powers and present expansionist initiatives, the future of Cuba, and its capital, ebbs and flows. Havana exists in a constant state of immanence.

This is a unique time to study the Cuban capital. Whatever happens next, it will not remain the same. Island territories vHavana seeks to engage with this extraordinary moment of change. It will dig deep into the physical, environmental and cultural layers of the city with the aim of ‘drawing out’ an imaginary, possible future. Island Territories are inevitably strange. Whilst self-reliant, they long for an expanded world reaching far beyond their waters. Island territories v: Havana will seek out the unexpected and the anomalous, the hybrid and the indigenous in a closely curated and finely articulated project of architectural enquiry, wit and invention.

Island territories vHavana will follow the integrated pathway; it will operate across the four semesters of the two-year Architecture - MArch programme and include a 10-day study trip to Cuba. A carefully choreographed series of unfolding studio projects will structure this major body of work. Work will be undertaken through the making of crafted drawings and constructs that operate in the architectural ground between analysis and proposition. The Integrated pathway allows the time for students to develop their own particular architectural language and, in so doing, allows them to position themselves with confidence in the realm of possibilities beyond their architectural education.

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