Vano Gvencadze, Nina Avdalyan
The University of Georgia
Urban Design and Landscape
Havana, being a metropolis in a relatively tiny country with limited resources, faces a particularly challenging situation due to the high degree of… more
A seasoned architect specialized in Building Information Modeling (BIM), Endrit is also a certified… more
Your project is a stellar example of seamlessly blending respect for history with an innovative vision for the future. In a time when our urban spaces are constantly evolving, your endeavor to create an environment that's "pleasurable for everyone" is not just commendable, but absolutely essential.
One of the standout features of your project is how you've centered cultural heritage and the area's history. As James Baldwin aptly put it: "People are entwined with history, and history with them." This mirrors what you've incorporated and revered in your project.
The way you've utilized abandoned spaces and transformed them into a dignified area is truly remarkable. This task undoubtedly required immense passion and professionalism on your part.
Another point I'd like to emphasize is your environmental consciousness and commitment to sustainability. In a time when our planet is facing numerous challenges, your response serves as an exemplary model of conscious and innovative intervention. How you've considered the local and shared economy is a significant stride toward a more sustainable future.
On the aspect of "healthy food", it brings a fresh perspective on how architecture connects with people. It's true that "the spaces where people interact and converge shape architecture and the urban environment". Shared spaces are quintessential for social balance and human emotional development.
From a technical standpoint, the use of eco-friendly materials and your approach to acoustics are features that make this project unique and polished. Graphically, your work is distinctive and striking, with carefully chosen colors, shapes, and textures.
In conclusion, I must say that it's a pleasure to analyze such a project. I commend you for your dedication and passion, and I hope you continue to focus on human-centric and sustainable concepts in your future endeavors.
Havana, being a metropolis in a relatively tiny country with limited resources, faces a particularly challenging situation due to the high degree of degradation of its physical environment. According to a recent study, 46% of structures in the Old Town require immediate intervention, 21% restoration, 3% destruction, and 30% preservation. There is actually one particular place that outstands among the others and which deserves special attention, not only for its massive extension but also for its unique history: Plaza de la Revolución.
It is not just one of the world's largest public squares (72.000 square meters), but it is also a historical landmark. The area has hosted numerous major events of the Cuban Revolution and has seen up to a million people converge at once during political gatherings.
Thought and anticipated to be the new core of the Cuban capital, Plaza de la Revolución is far from that in reality. Nowadays, the entire setting reflects an isolated and underutilized place that is only visited a few times each year. Surrounded by the concrete buildings of the Ministry of the Interior (famous for its massive Che Guevara mural) and the Telecommunications Ministry (famous for its iconic portrait of Camilo Cienfuegos), Plaza de la Revolución is frozen in time, waiting to be rediscovered.
It has devolved into a type of "public void" where tourists just pass through to capture the traditional photo with Che Guevara's mural in the backdrop before returning to the beach.
Our goal was to give it a chance to investigate its possibilities and advantages of urban regeneration: that not only entails making the most use of existing materials and energy, but also defines the character of a city, protects historical memory, cultural legacy, and social fabric.
An urban project is only as successful as its ability to cater to a wide range of individuals and their unique needs. This project is designed with the principles of universal design in mind. By incorporating features that meet the needs of all individuals, regardless of their physical abilities, the project can be enjoyed by a wider range of people and help to create a more equitable and inclusive community.
The conceptual integrity of the new square’s role as a linkage between old and new Havana is based on the superimposition of the urban grids of both parts, creating a multidimensional system of paths connecting the three levels of the square and a complex of solids, two of which serve as a platform for hot air balloon trips to the historical and modern parts of the city and act as a metaphor for unity, making it a livelier area, accessible and functional for both local dwellers and international tourists and allowing it to be used seven days a week and in the new image that is given to such a peculiar extra-large urban void.
Designed to be pleasurable for everyone, a system of solids pop out of the green jungle. By preserving some of its concrete surfaces as artifacts, Plaza de la Revolucion is being honored for its role as a spark for the reformatory era in Cuban history. The activities located under the staircase serve as a shaded playground for all sorts of activities, a local open air food market and a gallery/workshop space, with the side option of solid sites.The inspiration for these derived from the history of Cuba, it's culture and the local lifestyle.
Unfortunately, Havana is also facing a number of ecological challenges that are threatening the health and well-being of the city's residents, as well as its fragile ecosystems. One of the primary sources of air pollution in Havana is transportation, largely caused by the increasing number of "old" cars that fill Cuba's streets. The tourism industry vastly uses the vintage looks of the vehicles for attracting new visitors, without acknowledging the severity of the ecological problems the city is facing.Another ecological challenge facing Havana is water pollution. The city's waterways, including the Almendares and Quibu rivers, are heavily contaminated with pollutants such as sewage, industrial waste, and agricultural runoff. This pollution has serious impacts on the health of aquatic ecosystems, as well as on the health of people who rely on these water sources for drinking, bathing, and recreation. The metropolis is also facing challenges related to deforestation and habitat loss. This has led to the loss of important habitat for many species, including several endangered and endemic species. To help overcome this issue, our project implements a water harvesting system that involves the collection and storage of rainwater for later use. This can help reduce the demand for freshwater resources, which are often scarce and overburdened in this area. Additionally, by capturing and storing rainwater, this system can help to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff, which can be a major contributor to water pollution and also, this method helps the urban jungle be self-sufficient in terms of watering the local plants.
Nevertheless, besides the obvious problem of air, the square being surrounded by wide roads poses a number of challenges for accessibility and livability, particularly for people with disabilities or mobility issues. This can lead to a sense of isolation for people who are unable to access the square easily, and can also contribute to social exclusion. That;s why our project incorporates features such as wheelchair ramps, connecting all three dimensions of the plaza, and ample seating areas for those who need to rest.
In addition to air pollution, the surrounding roads can also contribute to high levels of noise pollution. The constant noise from traffic can be disruptive to the visitors who find themselves near the square, and can also have negative impacts on mental health and well-being. To help solve this problem, the redisovering of the square program includes promoting alternative modes of transportation such as cycling and walking. Additionally, investing in green infrastructure such as the new born sinked jungle, helps to mitigate the impacts of air pollution and noise pollution, while also improving the overall livability and attractiveness of the square. Creating such an urban forest would help cool the area during dry season, reduce energy use, improve the air quality, ehnance the local biodiversity, and benefit the mental health of city dwellers when temperatures rise due to climate change.
During the dry season, the square's greenery serves as a shaded playground for all sorts of activities with the option of solid sites, while in the wet season, the focus shifts to the solids as a shelter from inclement weather with specific integrated activities and green surroundings, transforming the plaza into the primary public area of the city for everyday use and undirected activities, as well as offered activities.
The technique of using the descent to defamiliarize the public void and make visitors see the square in a new way, pointing out the hidden beauty of the plain surface previously neglected by everyone, also solves the noise pollution problem of the area, alongside sheltering people in windy Cuban "wet" season weather.
One of the other key features of this urban project is its focus on creating new working spaces. By incorporating a range of commercial elements, such as - cafe, cinema, gym, farmer's markets, the project provides an important source of income for local residents. In addition, the project also creates new opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners, helping to boost the local economy.
The incorporation of local Cuban traditions into the project also serves to strengthen the community and create a sense of shared identity. By celebrating the local culture through the inclusion of outdoor food markets, dancing and live music performances, spaces for active nightlife and other events, the project creates a sense of energy and vitality in the community, and a lively and dynamic atmosphere that is sure to attract both locals and visitors alike.
Instead of just planting trees and calling it a day, the new plaza incorporates a variety of fruit forests as a part of its jungle. The concept of a fruit forest is simple: besides planting traditional ornamental trees or grass, fruit trees are planted for anyone to walk through and pick whatever fruit is available, providing a source of nutrition for those who may not have the means to purchase fresh produce. The idea can play a key role in decreasing food scarcity by providing free and healthy food options for the community. The miniature forests are designed to include a variety of fruit trees, such as pineapples, coconuts, mangos, avocadoes, bananas, and more. This diversity ensures that there is always something in season and ripe for picking. The fruit picking may also foster a sense of community. As people gather to harvest the fruit, they are able to connect with one another and build relationships. This sense of community can be strengthened through organized events such as harvest festivals, where people can come together to celebrate the bounty of the season. Alongside the locals, tourists are looking for unique experiences and attractions that highlight the local culture and history. Incorporating elements such as public art, historical concrete surfaces, cultural events and interests, such as open air cinema, clubing area, signature food markets, creates a more memorable experience for visitors and encourage them to return to the area in the future. From traditional venues playing bolero and salsa in the alleys of the square, to indoor and outdoor dance club solid, offering activities and spaces for special daytime or night time occasions active all day long, all year round.
The design of our project is inclusive of everyone, from the elderly to children, parents, students, groups and lone wanderers, sports lovers, and beyond.
Another important consideration is safety. Parents with young children will appreciate design features that allow them to keep an eye on their little ones, such as open spaces and clear sightlines. At the same time, it's important to incorporate safety features that protect children and other vulnerable populations, such as fencing around the stairs and well-lit areas at night. For students and other active groups, the project offers areas for socializing and group activities, such as sports fields or communal spaces. These areas are designed with the specific needs of the group in mind, such as ample seating or designated gallery and workshop areas.
Sports lovers are not forgotten either, the project includes outdoor and indoor sports facilities, such as wall climbing, open air yoga space and indoor football pitch, skating valley . These areas should are designed with safety in mind, but also with the needs of athletes in mind, such as high-quality playing surfaces and ample lighting for evening games.
As the result of our intervention the ever forgotten Cuban Square got a chance to be rediscovered by those who wander into it and find themselves looking out of the building sized terrarium, dedicated to every living species.
Being fully constructed with mass timber, using glt for contruction parts, clt for ceilings, floors and walls and finished with the cork cladding, known for its permeability to water vapor and resistant to compression ,offering thermal insulation whilst also offering a number of acoustic benefits for its ability to absorb and dissipate sounds, the new Plaza is not only extremely eco-friendly and sustainable, but also prefabricated, which means the assembly of its solids and components at a location other than the building site. The method controls construction costs by economizing on time, wages, and materials. Prefabrication also permits building throughout the year, regardless of the weather. Less disruption to surrounding environment on-site. This kind of modular prefabrication is the most sustainable way to build, reducing waste by 80% when compared to traditional construction.