Urban Organic Agricultural Center, Havana, Cuba

Media:

  • Palleroni, Sergio, Studio At Large:  Architecture in Service of Global Communities, Seattle:  University of Washington Press, 2004
  • Shaw, Austin Hill, “Cuba”American Institute of Architecture, Colorado Architect, July 2001, p. 17

Intentions: When the U.S.S.R. disintegrated in 1991, Cuba lost their main supporter.   Fuel to bring crops from the countryside to the town centers was scarce, making starvation a real possibility.   As a result, urban dwellers began reclaiming unused tracks of land for agriculture within the city limits, removing old building and ripping out pavement to expose the soil beneath.  As part of the first American group with permission to enter Cuba since the 1960  embargo, this was a short 17 day project with profound ramifications.  Led by  Sergio Palleroni of the University of Washington and famed maverick architects Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson of the Jersey Devil Architecture Group, the goal was to refurbish a storage building on the Havana’s main urban organic agricultural center.

Functional Results: A dark, cramped feeling space, we lowered the floor by two feet to make the perceived ceiling height greater and added a layer of wood and heat reflecting foil in the trusses, thereby creating an airspace and comfortable buffer between the hot roof above and the occupants below.   A brick patio was laid on the short end of the structure and a pergola using bamboo and steel marked the entrance on the adjacent wall.

Aesthetic Results: Being a communist state, there were no hardware store to secure supplies.   All items had to be petitioned by the state.   We all brought in tools and bags of glass tiles in our suit cases for the mosaic flanking the patio.   We also teamed up with local welders to make decorative screens for the windows.   For door handles we scavenged a clutch and a brake from an old tractor, and used a pre-fab Russian concrete slab found in the banana field for a bridge over the swale.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply