Aug 052016
 

ARCHITECTURE OF NECESSITY
by Ernesto Oroza, 2006

Havana

Cuba is one of the countries in ­Latin America with the highest index of ­urban population. Havana holds a large percentage of this population and the number continues to grow. However, it shows a low index of ­production of new homes in relation to its demographic growth.

Where does this city house its two million inhabitants?

For over three decades, the ­inhabitants of Havana have intervened, using their own resources, on their houses and the adjoining public and private spaces in order to adapt them to the new needs faced by the individual and the family. The most common alterations include the creation of new floor plans, closing ­apertures, divisions, and added spaces; and the invasion and occupation of public, communal or otherwise empty areas.

These spatial alterations demand new entryways, windows and ­balconies, new hydraulic installations and ­electrical systems, along with an infinite array of architectural modifications, such as the use of protection bars to mark the new limits of the property or the conversion of domestic spaces into cafeterias, parking for bicycles, or cages for animals.

A foundational trait has radicalized this process. The house became the fount of its own resources for its transformation.

The architectural theorem: house/raw-material turned the family into a productive unit at the core of a process that transformed the city. It is a transformation that begins at the home.

The many interventions that ­characterize this process have extended considerably Havana’s ­habitable space. However not extended the borders of the city. This allows us to speak of it as a city that has grown inwardly.

Since necessity plays a central role in the generation and regulation of this kind of architecture, I associate it with natural forms known as stalactites and stalagmites, where the shape is the result of a fluid movement of materials attracted by gravitational force.

In this popular architecture, the irrepressible movement of materials also produces a grid of lines and holes, a superimposition of layers and ­structures that, just as in the natural process of sedimentation, are supported one over the other. This fluid movement responds to a strength as powerful and unavoidable as gravity, the force of necessity.

Le Corbusier synthesized in his ­“Modulor” the human traditions that have attempted to project the physical and spiritual dimensions of the universe through architectural forms.

But, “The exterior is always and interior,” Le Corbusier said, speaking of other things.

The modified architecture of Havana is driven by an unavoidable fate: ­Necessity. The city’s inhabitants are aware of their real needs. Their ­prejudices stripped by the inevitable, they transform the city under a new order: The Moral Modulor.

Le Corbusier proposed: “By ­imposing the order of his foot or his arm, he has created a unit which regulates the whole work; and this work is on his own scale, to his own proportions, comfortable for him, to his measure. It is on a human scale. It is in harmony with him: that is the true main point.”*

The Moral Modulor, unlike the “Corbusierean” Modulor, is a human ­being at the same time as a ­measuring tool. He embodies the human potential to understand urgency and inscribe it in space. He adds, to the order established by human dimensions, the moral dimension that necessity recovers.

Urgency provides to the individual a foundational alibi. Every sexual or physiological impulse, every birth and even death, will provoke the appearance of new walls, columns, stairways, new windows or plumbing and electrical systems.

Form follows Necessity.

The modified houses of Havana express this relationship. It’s an Architecture of Necessity.

Potential House

“The idea is constant, in full sway from the beginning.”

The Potential House is a living state of awareness. In the face of a persistent urgency, the Potential House produces a constant way of looking at the world, a radical perspective and an architectural pragmatism: ­everything will be a house.

And it is not only a question of an architectural ideal, it is an almost uncontainable cleverness that allows you to imagine and collect possible used bricks, small amounts of cement, windows and potential stairways throughout the city. It is the lucidity that allows you to understand when the optimal economic and legal moment to build a new floor in your house may be, even if you are sure its walls won’t go up for another two years.

The house exists from the beginning as a potentiality. This is why there are entire houses currently accumulated as stacked bricks under a bed or behind a sofa. And there are other houses that at first, and for a long time, are only a wall or at best a bathroom.

The Potential House survives in that continuum of small constructive efforts that throughout the length of our lives line up our needs with our accumulations of materials, technologies and ideas.

Havana, Updating City

Havana regenerates itself every day. Even when we might perceive it as a unique innovative gesture encompassing the whole city, it really obeys to everyday and personal gestures that multiply themselves everywhere.

The sum of the efforts of many families to improve their living conditions using their own private resources, is not more than a new way of reurbanization and adaptation of the city to the always changing necessities of its ­inhabitants, as well of their legal and economic ­possibilities.

Urbanism is one of the ways in which power imagines, projects and transforms the city.

The Updating City is the way in which the city’s ­inhabitants, as family units or as individuals, imagine, project and transform the city.

In the Updating City the capacity of these inhabitants to recognize their needs and find immediate solutions to satisfy them prevails. There is no waiting for or accepting the rhythms of professional urbanism. In the Updating City the “urbanism” becomes a domestic task, a family task, like doing the laundry or procreating. The city produces itself to the biological and economic rhythm of the home.

The result is a rhizomatic city, built according to the multiple interpretations that the city’s inhabitants make of their lived realities and, afterward, of the amassing of these quotidian responses.

If in this architecture the house produces a diagram of the history and current circumstances of the family, the city translates the collective movement of a society into a language of structures. In this sense, the Updating City rejects the figurative and alienated role of contemporary architecture. In its place, it promotes decentralized practices, disobedient and pragmatic practices, practices that are absolutely abstract in the same basic, pre-culturized sense that sleep and eating can be.

A dual awareness that you need water today and that you will need it for the rest of your life, determines two solutions with different temporal characters: the first one immediate, maybe provisional; the second progressive, probably permanent.

The two lines of thinking, immediate/provisional and progressive/permanent, mix, leaving behind parallel electrical, water and gas systems; installations that are finished and unfinished, visible and invisible, legal and illegal, cheap and expensive.

The city’s inhabitants convert their houses into a ­systematic means of expression and survival. The pragmatism, the astuteness to avoid poverty and the legal cleverness with which they deal with spaces and ­materials, converts each home into a manifesto: a Statement of ­Necessity.

The House is Limit and Possibility

He lived with his mother in a space that was so small that it couldn’t legally be considered a house. He expanded into the hallway, built a kitchen and refurbished the bathroom. He changed the status of the property and acquired a title for it.

He got his hands on a permit to build on the roof, as he thought about moving out on his own. In order to do this he had to build an exterior stairway. He set to work on the structure indoors and started the paperwork to divide the property.

The appearance of an exterior stairway before the process of dividing the house was finished could be considered a violation, and he could be fined or even lose all property rights to the house he had built.

He understood that the description of the house and its parts depends on the cultural understanding that we have of it, that laws depend on this understanding.

Then, what is a stairway? How does one describe it? Could he build a structure in front of his doorway that looks nothing like a stairway but serves the same function?

Maybe just objects stacked in such a way that one can climb and descend them? Or an object by Ettore Sottsass, a stack that includes all of Samuel Feijóo’s books, a Franz West sculpture, anything?

He decided on a conceptual shortcut: he built the stairway and waited to be fined. In this way, he gained time. The Law demanded that he cease building the stairway until the paperwork needed to divide the property was ­finalized.

Years went by. He used the unfinished stairway.

What’s a finished stairway?

The house is limit and possibility. It’s a prison and, at the same time, an asset. Havana’s transformed houses are the result of our capacity to face, negotiate with, or ­simply elude the legal, economic, physical and cultural limits. These very limits enunciate/ articulate the city’s ­architecture.

Architecture is limit and possibility.


*Le Corbusier quotes from Towards a New Architecture (translated by Frederick Etchells)

Aug 052016
 

Declaración de Necesidad. Por una Arquitectura de la Necesidad y la Desobediencia.
Ernesto Oroza, Habana, 2006
(english versión here: http://architectureofnecessity.com/14/)

Por más de dos décadas los cubanos han intervenido, con sus propios recursos, las viviendas y espacios aledaños públicos y privados, para adaptarlos a la nuevas necesidades y requerimientos individuales y familiares. El conjunto de estas transformaciones incluye, desde la creación de nuevas plantas o volumenes añadidos, hasta la simple colocación de rejas para definir y proteger límites de propiedad[1]. Por su expresión, lo producido puede ser entendido como un componente esencial y dinamizador de la identidad contemporánea de las ciudades y pueblos de Cuba. Por su impacto y magnitud podemos entenderlo como un suceso productivo y demográfico que tiene y tendrá tanta repercusión en la realidad económica, urbana y social de la isla como lo tuvo en sus respectivas épocas, el desborde urbano de la Habana intramuros, la creación del Vedado o del propio Alamar.

Cuando gané conciencia de estas intervenciones y dejaron de ser invisibles para mí, entendí que los años de investigación que dediqué a los objetos del Período Especial[2] no podían tener mejor continuidad que el encuentro con, en mi opinión, el más creativo fenómeno productivo popular de Cuba de los últimos 40 años: la Arquitectura de la Necesidad. Sin embargo, he percibido paralelamente a la evolución de este fenómeno, su rechazo en los medios e instituciones encargadas del “orden visual y constructivo” en las urbes cubanas. Oposición contradictoria, pues la vivienda ha sido unos de los problemas más difíciles de vencer por el programa socialista, lo que nos obliga a una mirada flexible y comprensiva hacia este ejercicio de autogestión, que si bien transforma la apariencia y esencias históricas de la ciudad, resuelve necesidades esenciales de miles de individuos.

Inicialmente, e incitado por la exuberancia creativa de mis vecinos y por el extremismo de los individuos e instituciones que se le oponían, acumulé datos y análisis, que en los órdenes humanos, económicos, ideológicos y productivos, me permitieran argumentar el valor de este fenómeno y participar de alguna manera de los debates provocados[3]. Conceptualizarlo como una otra forma de expresión de la arquitectura fue el primer paso en mi esfuerzo por validarlo, utilicé (irónicamente, pienso ahora) decenas de conceptos que encontraban explicación en lo que estaba ocurriendo en las ciudades. Empleé por ejemplo el término “arquitectura prefabricada” para comentar sobre la presencia en el stock de “materiales” de elementos como vigas, tabiques y escaleras recogidas entre los escombros de viejas edificaciones, pero también para reconsiderar el valor en el proceso de las estructuras y objetos arquitectónicos que forman la vivienda a transformar. El de “arquitectura extrovertida” para mostrar las estrechas relaciones entre las necesidades y fluctuaciones de la familia (nacimientos, divorcios, nuevos empleos, etc) con su expresión directa en las fachadas y estructuras. “Arquitectura de intervención” para enunciar el carácter de urgencia de estas producciones y su similitud desde el punto de vista temporal, estratégico y pragmático con las intervenciones militares. Me adentré en el tema de la integración urbana para intentar demostrar que el área intervenida era superior al área virgen y que por tanto el concepto de integración arquitectónica e ideas afines entraban en conflicto poniendo en duda cual sentido deberían entonces tomar los procesos de integración. Encontré nuevos edificios oficiales que empezaban, por la esquemática aplicación del concepto integración, a imitar los nuevos ejes visuales que en la ciudades estaba imponiendo las transformaciones.

Sin embargo, hoy estoy convencido de que el único concepto que debí esgrimir para comentar el valor de este fenómeno productivo es el de: Arquitectura de la Necesidad. Era suficiente. Esta metáfora, además de enunciar una arquitectura sincera y correspondiente con las necesidades humanas, se aclaró como un método para desglosar y analizar la problemática de la necesidad, su conciencia a nivel social e individual y el rol esencial de esta conciencia en el desenvolvimiento de cualquier fenómeno productivo o de gestión autosuficientes. Casi las únicas vías posibles hoy, para resolver los problemas habitacionales en el mundo contemporáneo.

Por la medular función de la necesidad en la generación y regulación de este tipo de arquitectura fue que la asocié a las producciones naturales conocidas como estalactitas y estalagmitas, donde la forma es el resultado del movimiento fluido de los materiales atraídos por la fuerza de gravedad. En esta arquitectura popular, el movimiento irreprimibible de los materiales forma también un tejido de líneas y vacíos, una superposición de capas y estructuras, que como en los procesos naturales de sedimentación, se apoyan unas sobre otras. Este movimiento fluido obedece a una fuerza tan dominante e ineludible como la gravedad: la fuerza de la Necesidad. Los estigmas burgueses que sancionan como débiles a los necesitados y vulgares a los que expresan sus demandas, y que terminan por maniquear y censurar el espíritu creativo de los que no tienen medios básicos de vida y que por tanto están empujados a desobedecer las reglas de los contextos que viven, revolotean aun entre todos nosotros. Por eso cuando algunas personas deciden expresar sus demandas a viva voz, sin pudores ni recatos, y lo hacen directamente, creando soluciones a sus necesidades, desnudan uno de los problemas más contradictorios de la vida contemporánea: la insensibilidad que hemos adquirido para eludir nuestras verdaderas necesidades, y la habilidad que hemos ganado para fabricarnos o aceptar nos fabriquen seudo necesidades.

Esta conciencia y liberación me parece el primer valor a estudiar en este fenómeno creativo cubano. Después, por supuesto deberemos entender y sintetizar el conjunto de relaciones culturales, económicas e ideológicas que le dan sentido para extraer teoremas aplicables a campos profesionales del diseño y la arquitectura pero también a muchos otros como la política.

A estas alturas tengo nuevos enunciados personales y otros comunes al colectivo con el que ahora colaboro. Me interesan, entre otros muchos tópicos y a un nivel individual, las estrategias para desobedecer o tomar atajos ante la regulaciones legales que controlan la fabricación y la propiedad: intersticios que permiten burlar definiciones de una escalera -por ejemplo-, desde el punto de vista de legal, y ponen en conflicto la semántica del objeto arquitectónico y de los procesos constructivos y de uso que le dan sentido.

Con el colectivo comparto muchas interrogantes esenciales como las eternas preguntas: ¿Es esto una casa?, ¿Es arquitectura, o demotectura, o sub-tectura?, ¿Cómo extrapolar tanto saber y experiencia popular a prácticas profesionales, que han mostrado cierta miopía, como la arquitectura y el diseño?, ¿Cómo ayudar a viabilizar la evolución, imparable en el mundo de hoy, de la autosuficiencia familiar en campos tan importantes como la energía y la construcción?. Ojala pudiera comentarles ahora mismo sobre esas respuestas, ya estoy ansioso, pero el viaje es largo.


[1] El fenómeno creativo-productivo tratado aquí se incorpora a un movimiento popular más complejo e integrador que incluye todos los esfuerzos populares de autogestión desarrollados para encarar la dificil crisis económica de los años 90 en todos los sectores de la vida en el país.

[2] El Período Especial en tiempo de paz quedó oficialmente definido en el Museo de la Revolución como “un programa de urgencia económica instituido para ser capaces de resistir y continuar nuestro programa de desarrollo, frente a la caída y desaparición del campo socialista y la existencia de un bloqueo recrudecido.”

[3] Estas primeras aproximaciones pueden encontrarse en el libro Objets Reinventes. La création Populaire à Cuba. Editions Alternative. 2002, París. Especificamente en el capítulo titulado: Une ville qui croît à l’Interieur, architecture de la nécessité.

Apr 272006
 

Architecture of Necessity. A study on transformed architecture in the contemporary Havana (working title)

ernesto oroza holguin 2003

ernesto oroza holguin 2003

Statement of neccesity. For an architecture of the necessity and the disobedience.
Ernesto Oroza, 2006

For two decades the Cubans have intervened, with their own resources, the houses and public and private spaces around, to adapt them to the new necessities and individual and family requirements. The group of these transformations includes, from the creations of new plans or added volumes, to the simple placement of fences to define and protect property limits[1]. By its expression, the result can be understood as an essential and energizer component of the contemporary identity in the Cuban cities and towns. By its impact and magnitude we can see it as a productive and demographic event that has and will have so much repercussion in the economic, urban and social reality of the Island as it occurred with the urban expansion of Havana beyond the walls, the creation of the Vedado neighbourhood or of the very Alamar at their time.
When I were aware of these interventions and they stopped to be invisible for me, I realized that the years of investigation devoted to the objects of the Especial Period[2] couldn’t have a better continuity than the meeting with, in my opinion, the most creative of the popular productive events in Cuba during the last 40 years: the Architecture of the necessity. However, I have observed in parallel to the evolution of this phenomena, the rejection by the institutions in charge of the “constructive and visual order” in the Cuban cities.  A contradictory opposition when the housing issue has been one of most difficult problems to solve by the socialist program, what forces us to a flexible and understanding glance toward this exercise of self-management, that if it really transforms the appearance and the historic essence of the city, it also solves the basic necessities of thousand of people.
Initially, and provoked by the creative exuberance of my neighbours and the extremism of the individuals and institutions in opposition to them, I gather information and analysis, that in the in the human, economic, ideological and productive order allowed me to argue the value of this phenomena as well as to take part  in some way into the originated discussions[3]. To conceptualize it as another way of expression of the architecture was the first step in my effort to validate it, I used (ironically, thinking now) dozens of concepts that had their explanation on what was happening into the cities. I used, for instance,  the term “prefab architecture” to talk about the presence, whiting the stock of materials, of elements like beams, walls and stairs collected from the ruins of old buildings, but also to reconsider the value of the structures and the architectonic objects as part of the house to be transformed whiting the process . The concept of the “extroverted architecture” to show the close relation between the necessities and the family changes (births, divorces, new jobs, etc.), with its direct expression over the structures and the facades; The “Architecture of the intervention”, to enunciate the character of urgency of these productions and its similitude with the military interventions from the temporal, strategic and programmatic point of view. I went deep on the issue of the urban integration to try to prove that the already intervened area was bigger than the virgin area and that therefore the concept of the “architectonic integration” and other related ideas were in conflict imposing the doubt on which way should then take the integration process. I found new official buildings that were starting to imitate the new visual axis that were being imposed by the transformation in the cities, due to the schematic application of the concept “integration”.
However, I am convinced today that the only concept that I should use to comment on the value of this productive phenomena, was the one of “Architecture of necessity”. It was enough. This metaphor, besides from declare and honest architecture in correspondence with the human needs, cleared up as a method to systematize and analyze the problematic issue of the necessity, its conscious at a social and individual level ant the essential role of this consciousness whiting the development of any productive or management self sufficient phenomena, almost the only ways today to solve the housing problems in the contemporary world.
Because of the central role of the necessity in the generation and regulation of this kind of architecture, is that I associated it with the natural production known as stalactites and stalacmites, where the shape is the result of a fluid movement of the materials attracted by the gravitational force. In this popular architecture, the irrepressible movement of the materials also produces a grid of lines and holes, a superposition of layers and structures that as in the natural process of sedimentation are supported one over the other. This fluid movement answers to such a powerful and unavoidable strength like the one of gravity: the force of the necessity. The bourgeois stigmas that sanction as weak to the needed and vulgar to those that express their demands, and that finish for manipulate and censor the creative spirit of those that don’t have basic means of life and that therefore are pushed to disobey the rules of the contexts were they live,  still fly among all of us.
Therefore when some people decide to express their demands to alive voice in a direct way, without chastity or modesty, by the creation of solutions to their necessities they undress one of the most contradictive problems of the contemporary life: the insensibility we have acquired to elude our truly needs, and the ability we have gained to fabricate pseudo necessities or accept that others do it for us.
I find this conscious and this liberation as the first value to study in this creative Cuban phenomenon. Later, of course, we shall understand and synthesize the group of thecultural, economical and ideological relations that give sense to the event to extract from it applicable theorems to professional fields in design and architecture, and also to many others like politics.
Now I have new personal statements and others in common with the team that I now collaborate with. From diversity of issues and at an individual level, I am interested in the strategies to disobey or to take shortcuts in front of the legal regulations that control the fabrication and the property: interstices that allow to deceive definitions of a stair -for instance-, from the legal point of view and sets into conflict the semantic of the architectonic object and of the constructive process that give sense to it.
I share lots of essential interrogations with the team like the eternal questions: ¿is this a house? ¿Is this architecture or demotecture, or subtecture? ¿How to extrapolate so much popular nowhow and experience into professional practices that have shown certain myopia, like design and architecture?. How to help into the evolution, unstoppable in today’s world, of the family self-sufficiency in fields that important as energy and construction?. I whish I could comment you right now on those answers, I am already anxious, but it is a long trip.


[1] The creative-productive phenomenon mentioned here it is incorporated into a popular movement more complex and more integrative that includes all the popular efforts of self-management developed to face the difficult economic crisis of the nineties in all the sectors of the life of the country.
[2]  The Special Period in time of peace was officially defined in the Museum of the Revolution like “a program of economic urgency instituted to be able to resist and to continue our development program, in front of the fall and disappearance of the socialist field and the existence of a reinforced blockade.”
[3]  These first approaches can be founded in the book Objets Reinventes. La création Populaire à Cuba. Editions Alternative. 2002, Paris. Specifically in the chapter entitled: Une ville qui croît à l’Interieur, architecture de la nécessité.



Mira Kongstein
Modified architecture is on no account a special phenomenon of Cuba and Havana. Modifications have always been made, everywhere: Most of us like to decide how our surroundings should be, according to taste and needs. The exceptional about Havana is the massive presence of these modifications, and their strong visual character – to the extent that the architecture of Havana might just as well be characterized as a modified architecture or as a colonial architecture. The modifications have become the face of Havana.
It was these modifications that made such a strong impression on me the first time I visited Havana on a study trip in 2003, and since that time the subject has fascinated and interested me. Havana as an example starts a numerous important architectonical discussions, theoretical as well as practical.
We are used to think about architecture as a finished whole. Still, just a few houses are left untouched as the architect thought and drew them: the people living in the houses add theirs to it, and as time pass by the house changes. Functions change, additions and divisions are made, and so new layers are added to the original structure. The architecture of Havana opens to see architecture as a process in time instead of a closed object.
Thus the house can be viewed upon as an open work, where the modifications are concrete expressions of the co-creation of the habitant. A lot of architects want to create an open, flexible architecture. The houses of Havana were never intended to be flexible when they were built. Still, they can contain a seemingly infinite number of changes, and they are indeed changed a lot more than the intended flexible structures of the architects of the sixties and seventies. It looks as though the fixed structures in the old buildings of Havana have a special strength in them to carry these changes. In this way the architecture of Havana puts in perspective the question of flexibility in architecture.
In large, the modifications are produced by non-professionals, funded in a need and executed with the available materials. Thus they represent a vernacular architecture of an extent unusual today, where most of the architectonical process is controlled by politicians and architects. Vernacular architecture has always been a source of inspiration for architects, since this direct translation of a need into a building structure often results in a strong architectonic expression. Here Havana offers us a unique possibility to study a contemporary vernacular architecture in an urban context.
Transformation of existing structures for new functions is of high relevance in Europe today. According to the European building culture, where buildings have a long lifetime, we have the building mass needed, but their functions have to be changed in order to be useful to the society as it is arranged today. The need of these transformations is extent, and this forms a great task for today’s architects. We can learn from Havana how new layers of significance can be added to our structures, so the process can go on and the houses keep living.
As Old Havana is restored today, the process the houses have gone trough is not represented, and the traces time has set are removed to come closer to the “original” expression, and to give them a clean face. The ongoing restoration of Old Havana is highly needed to prevent a total decay, but it is precarious to have a more nuanced discussion of which principles that ought to be the base of the restoration. This is necessary so that Havana will not turn out to be a scenographic city where the original form is kept, but is emptied of meaning and lived life.
For me, the modifications of Havana have been the opening to see architecture in a different way, to me a way that make architecture more interesting, open and close to real life. By pointing out this architecture and searching to learn from Havana, I hope we can find an alternative to the smooth, well-planned, hyper-aesthetic architecture that rules the world of architecture today.

Maja Asaa
Sometimes it´s necesary to look behind the facade of the cultural images of our everyday life. In this way we can turn our imaginations and prejujeces into a a complex picture containing positive and negative sides.
Everyday many Cuban inhabitants are forced to modify their house. As a consequense of lacking resources all kinds of buildings: old palaces, former commercial buildings etc. are occupied for housing purposes and the houses are constanly being modified to match the changing social situation. The modifications leave a remarkable impression on the architectural image in Cuba – especially in the dense parts of Havana City. The houses are like architectural collages of several generations, constantly being modified according to the social circumstances.
In this poetic image the Cuban people live. But the poetry turns into hardcore reality when you enter the houses and see the background of the picture: survival.
You can look upon the modified houses in many ways. They could be regarded as absurdities, a disformation of poverty and ignorance blemishing the architectural ideals. As a foreigner you could be seduced to see the architecture as pure esthetics through the romantic veil of exotic shapes and artistic color palettes.
The situation of the modified houses are, without discussion, critical, but nevertheless, necessity has also provoked the creation of some incredible architectural inventions in the effort to satisfy the changing social circumstances within the same frame or in the attempt to get a house at all.
My personal intention with the project is to look behind the façade of the modified houses and look upon them with professional eyes. My purpose is to see the modifications as concrete architectural solutions and their relation to the social, cultural and environmental circumstances. I hope that the project can motivate a discussion about the housing situation in Cuba and the possibilities to regard the modified architecture as a valuable potential in terms of approaching the future urban– and housing development. In Cuba and abroad.
Working as an architect, in particular with housing problems in Denmark, I think it could be interesting and relevant to make some reflections of the Cuban modifications in a Danish and international context. Accommodating a steadily growing population on even less square meters is a global architectural challenge, which all cities of today have to face. In terms of handling this specific problem density is the buzz word. Therefore a great issue is to develop smaller houses with a maximum use of square meters. To secure the concentration of the cities and prevent Urban sprawl, today office and industrial buildings are converted into houses in Denmark and other European cities.
Reflection of the Cuban modifications could be interesting, as well, seen in relation to the new social requirements to the Danish houses. In Denmark the accelerated change of society is for instance reflected in the family structures, that have changed radically within the last years. The strong influence of individualism has, among other things, created an increasing amount of singles of all ages. Many people are divorced and married several times, part time children live half time with the seperated parents. But the new life styles are still not evident in our houses, which means that a large amount of houses doesn’t match the actual social situation of today’s families. Most of the houses are still being built like a nuclear family model. One of the greatest challenges in the Danish housing debate of today is therefore, how to develop houses that match the actual family structures.
I hope that this project can throw light upon the traditions in Cuba and Denmark and thereby contribute to a reverse extension of the professional and cultural conceptions in both cultures.
Sometimes we need to see your own culture thorugh the light of another to see it clearly – in this case through the light of the modified Cuban architecture.