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THE BARTLETT SCHOOL OF ARCHITECT, UCL
VANISHING POINT 2010-2011
"The past itself, as historical change continues to accelerate, has become the most surreal of subjects - making it possible _ to see a new beauty in what is vanishing."
Places, cities, buildings, and landscapes are in constant flux. Climate, culture, and politics force them to shift, grow, emerge or even vanish. Often places are dissolved by globalization, the local vernacular replaced by international conformity. Are we not losing sites of distinction and incomparable atmospheres? This year, the unique situation of Cuba has been the unit's point of departure. Isolated and cut off from the capitalist world until the end of the cold war, and hit hard by the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, this frozen utopia is on the verge of radical change. With the US Embargo likely to be lifted in the near future and recent plans to lay off huge numbers of state employees to revive its struggling economy, the Cuba we have come to know will soon vanish. Intrigued by this climate of uncertainty, the unit focused on that magic moment of transition in a bid to fire the imagination for future development and celebrate the triumph of Cuba's culture over its politics. Havana is a city brimming with a zest for life and displays a chaotic yet touching vitality.
In the first project, we studied this city from a distance with the help of literature, film, and art to formulate an architecture of survival that battles the dilemma between progress and preservation, the focus of the work is a contemporary application of Cuba's heritage. We aimed to create a sustainable solution to help those cultural markers to survive without becoming a caricature. The scarcity of goods together with low monthly wages has spawned a nation of hustlers and micro-capitalists. As the situation further deteriorates a majority of Cubans will be forced to form their own businesses. The investigation resulted in the design of a small enterprise or an individual architectural strategy that is immediate and blows vitality into Cuba's numbed economy. Following on from a field trip in Cuba that explored Havana as well as the lush tobacco valleys to the north, the main building project speculated about the country post-embargo. Again the focus was on manifesting Cuban cultural identity in the design whilst providing new developments that seek to help enhance Cuba's future trade prospects in the global market.
Deniz Varol, Angeline Wee,
Aaron Shun Wing Ho, Rachel King,
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