stillness and ghosts

«The ‘broken’ buries itself deeper into memory as the ‘whole’. The‘broken’ has a kind of brittle surface which one’s memory can grab hold to. On the clean surface of the ‘whole’, memory slips away.»

Wim Wenders

diploma3 worked this year with a theme entitled Stillness and Ghosts. A theme that, for us, suggests a way of thinking that allows time to be of consequence and an atmosphere that is only understood through some sense of absence. Our territory of study was the city of Havana and, considering the momentous political and social changes that are developing in Cuba at the moment, an approach was needed towards this vulnerable city that demands a careful understanding yet also allows for some uncertainty to exist.

Havana, as we know it, is visually stunning -an aged city that has largely escaped the process of speculative development and whose physicality is intensified due to the decay that it is subject to. It is also a city that is often over-romanticized. The harsh reality is one in which poverty is rampant -a city where up to 40 percent of buildings in some areas lack the basic services of sanitation, running water and electricity. A city where upwards towards 300 buildings collapse every year due to neglect, overcrowding or the periodic destructive force of the hurricane.

With approximately 2.5 million people, Havana has about one fifth of Cuba’s total population and is the largest city in the Caribbean. In 1982 Havana’s Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and prompted an investment programme of restoration and conservation, which has been largely centered on the monuments of the city. Yet one is struck at the sense of loss of an urban strategy which has promoted an abandonment of this historical heart as a living city and the too often tendency towards over-conservation or even replication of a colonial heritage.

Over the past decade there has been considerable foreign attention towards a re-ordering of the edges of the city, particularly around the bay of Havana. The focus of diploma3‘s work was rather on the interior of the city, in particular -sites where buildings have recently collapsed within the San Isidro district of Havana Vieja and the deprived district of San Lorenzo in Centro Havana. Propositions predominantly focused on housing and civic infrastructure – suggesting interventions and a finesse of inhabitation that contribute with generosity and delight to the tattered cashmere fabric of these two neighbourhoods.

Project Briefs:

Autumn Studies: Cast
Autumn Studies: Havana Map
Autumn Studies: Havana Survey
Winter Studies: Stillness and Ghosts
Spring Studies: Palermo Workshop

Student list:

Ana Abascal Crespo
Athanasia Antoniou
Elena Blanco
Sarah Bland
Laura Feroldi
Maliha Haque
Martinos Panayides
Marek Redo
Gudarz Riyahi
Ricardo Rodrigues Ferreira
Oliver Sprague
Shoji Tamura
Yuki Taniguchi
Moeko Yamagata
Philippa Battye
Andy Bolton
Konstantinos Evangeliou
Lucy Godden
Isacco Massarenti
Wilf Meynell
Bina Naran
Alex Stevens
Emmet Walsh
Philip Wells