Featured Student Project: Centro cultural de Paseo by Robin Cals
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Centro cultural de Paseo by Robin Cals
In the late 19th century, Vedado started as a city expansion of Havana. Rich sugar cane entrepreneurs built their grand colonial villas. In the 1950s the area became very popular among tourists. The increase in tourist arrivals during these years was to a large extent connected with the control established by United States Mafia families over gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking. Tourist numbers rose from 166.000 in 1950 to 275.000 in 1957, at an annual rate of 8 per cent. New hotels, all with their own casinos and gaming rooms, were built along the Malecón. – the main road along the coast of Havana. With the triumph of the Revolution in early 1959, prostitution and drug trafficking were eliminated and the Mafiosi were expelled.
Given the fact that 90 per cent of tourist visitors to Cuba up to that time had come from the United States, their numbers dwindled rapidly. International tourism practically ceased to exist as an economic activity for a considerable number of years. The flow of international tourists had started gradually to grow again from the beginning of the 1980s. During the following decade, given the enormous difficulties (Loss of main economic partner, the Soviet Union) with which it was confronted, the Cuban Government decided to accord the highest priority, in terms of investment and development, to those sectors which could provide the quickest solutions. Tourism stood out in this respect, displaying a high degree of dynamism.
With governmental money being spend on tourism and the two other main focus points, education and healthcare, there was little money for Cuban residents. Since the Triumph of the Revolution, there was a major housing shortage and the grand Vedado villas were subdivided into multiple family houses. Nowadays the houses are still in decay while hotels and big shopping malls, built for tourists, keep popping up. Since there is hardly any interaction between the two groups (Cuban residents and tourists), a growing gap in society occurs. Living right next to each other in the Malecón area, the small scale residential architecture gets surrounded by big generic architecture.
The ‘Centro cultural de Paseo’ is situated right between the residential and generic architecture. A common ground where both Cubans and international tourists can interact on all levels. By combining a wide range of programs in an unexpected way, the local daily life becomes more accessible for tourists. A big auditorium in the middle of the project can be the stage for performing arts, which is rehearsed somewhere else in the building. Workshops for painting and plastic arts, instructed by Cuban craftsman, form the base for exhibitions in the centre. All of these functions, together with extras like a library, a bar and wifi spots, are connected by raising the public space; an elevated street goes from one site of the urban block to the other.
Local vs Global. Cubans and tourist, participating in the same social activities.
Name: Robin Cals
Project name: Centro cultural de Paseo
University: TU Delft
Course and Year: Architectural Master Thesis