This eights notebook in a series of Streetscape Territories publications describes a research project in Havana, Cuba in collaboration with CUJAE, Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría (Cuba) and with support of VLIR UOS for development cooperation (Flanders). This publication includes experiences, insights and proposals by 6 students of the Faculty of Architecture who spent 6 weeks on site to contribute to the Streetscape Territories VLIR UOS development project (KU Leuven), focusing on the municipality El Cerro.
Cerro is one of the 15 municipalities or boroughs in Havana. This urban area dates from 1803 when it was chosen by wealthy families of the capital as a place to spend the summer. In 1843 there existed 5 large vacation residences, with 23 others notable for their sumptuousness. In 1843, Cerro's population was 2,125 inhabitants and by 1858, there were 2.530 permanent residents, illustrating a steady growth and consolidation of its territory. It now counts 132.351 inhabitants and is characterised by a dense environment but a rich cultural heritage, mostly in bad conditions and in need of reprogramming. El Cerro municipality is challenged in many ways: its streetscapes show precarity, decay and misappropriation, its housing stock unveils structural shortcomings or constructive pathologies, many buildings are empty, its streets are noisy, polluted and dominated by automobiles, leaving no place for pedestrian activity. Nevertheless, the slowly changing socio-economic context and opening of its market at the level of the state -allowing some small entrepreneurships and bottom-up cooperative initiatives- has its effect on the daily life of its inhabitants at the level of the municipality and starts to be visible in the city’s streetscapes: there are signs of change.
This complex problem setting was the starting point of the 6 week on-site development project. Its research question was: how can we provide a new reading of the municipality, starting from the idea of streetscapes, to contribute to the recovery of the rich heritage of this area?