Study Tour Fellow Reports



Study Tour Fellowships are provided by the Scott Opler Endowment for New Scholars and fund the participation of a student or emerging scholar on an SAH Study Tour. Read about the tours from the perspective of the fellowship recipients below. 




SAH Study Day - Miami and Miami Beach


Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Marsha J. McDonald, Florida International University

Marsha is currently completing her post-professional architectural studies at Florida International University. She is investigating the translation of culture and cultural identity in the built environment, particularly in the regions of the Caribbean and Latin America.  Marsha also completed her professional architectural education which resulted in a Master’s of Architecture degree, from Florida International University.

As a critical voice in the areas of Cultural Architecture and Spatial Design, her research investigates how an individual’s sense of identity affect their interiors and on a macro scale, how newly formed nations of the Caribbean and Latin America shape their cultural landscapes, in the early to mid-twentieth century. Her investigations focuses on how these Caribbean and Latin American nations go through the process of decolonization, as a part of nation-building, by either maintaining or rejecting their relationship with the past. This process is the basis of the emergence of new meanings and a modern narrative which facilitates new spatial representations in their cultural landscapes.  She is recently presented a paper on “Decolonized Spaces: New Spatial Representation in the Post-Colonial British Caribbean” at a local conference. 




SAH Study Day - Columbus, Indiana

Joss Kiely, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan

Joss Kiely is a Ph.D. candidate in architectural history and theory at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He received a B.A. in French and architectural studies from Connecticut College, as well as a Master of Architecture and an M.Sc. in architectural history and theory at the University of Michigan with a thesis entitled, Alternative Architectures of Italian Futurism: War, Lust, Flight, and Dance, 1909-39. His current research focuses on defining a latent "aerialism" that developed during the jet age of air travel in the 1950s and 1960s, specifically focusing on a handful of thin shell concrete structures designed by Minoru Yamasaki, Eero Saarinen, and Felix Candela.


Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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SAH Study Day - MoMA

Emily Morash, Visiting Instructor, Connecticut College; Ph.D. Candidate, Brown University

Emily Morash is a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University in the History of Art and Architecture as well as a visiting instructor in architectural studies at Connecticut College. She received a B.A. in art history and Italian from Smith College and a master’s degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia. She is currently completing a dissertation, Reconstructing Italian Domestic Architecture: Gio Ponti and Lo Stile, 1941-1947, that examines the development of domestic architecture and reconstruction solutions in Milan during and immediately following World War II.


Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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SAH Study Day - Los Angeles

Alex Tulinsky, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Washington

Alex Tulinsky is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington in the Ph.D. in the Built Environment, history-theory-representation track. He earned his M.S. in Architecture (history/theory) from the University of Pennsylvania and has a B.A. in political theory from Michigan State University. His dissertation examines residential architecture in Japan in the late 1960s and early 1970s, specifically the small urban house as designed and theorized by three architects: Azuma Takamitsu, Miyawaki Mayumi, and Suzuki Makoto. Recently he has been living in Los Angeles.


Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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SAH Study Day - Skyscraper Museum's "The Woolworth Building @ 100"

Sarah Rovang, Ph.D. Candidate, Brown University

Sarah is a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University in the History of Art and Architecture. She received her BA in architectural history from the University of Virginia in 2010. Her prospective dissertation examines the intersection of modernism and rural electrification efforts (particularly those of the Rural Electrification Administration) during the New Deal. She will be taking a break from her predominantly rural topic this summer to teach a high school course at Brown on the history of skyscrapers. 

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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SAH Study Tour to Cuba - 1

Erica Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago

Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Three Capitals Tour: New Delhi, Chandigarh, and Dhaka

Gretta Tritch Roman, Ph.D. Candidate, Penn State University

Gretta Tritch Roman is a Ph.D. candidate in art and architectural history at the Pennsylvania State University. She earned a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Arkansas and her Master’s degree in art and architectural history at the Pennsylvania State University where she completed a thesis titled, “La mise en scène icarienne:  The Construal of Utopian Space in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1849-58.” Recently her research has focused on strategies of eclectic designs and the ways in which varying audiences respond to such buildings, opening discussions that have ranged from Lucknow, India, to Chicago, Illinois. Currently she is working on her dissertation under the working title, “Rivalry, Revivalism, and Ritual: Building the Grain Exchanges of the American Midwest, 1875-1930.”

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Maison de Verre (Saturday)

Robert Wiesenberger, Columbia University

Robert is a rising second-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. His focus is on the history and theory of 20th century architecture and design, primarily in pre-war Germany. Visiting the Maison de Verre was especially exciting for him given his recent interest in 20th century architectural exchanges between Germany and France, and on the glass architecture of the avant-garde. Robert’s masters thesis examined Herbert Bayer’s exhibition design practice, and in particular his collaboration with László Moholy-Nagy on the 1931 Building Workers Union exhibition in Berlin. Robert holds a B.A. in History and Germanic Studies from the University of Chicago. He has worked at the design firms MetaDesign and Ammunition in San Francisco, and as an intern in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA. He is the recipient of a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education.

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Mexico City Modernism

Amanda Delorey, Courtauld Institute of Art

Amanda Delorey is currently working on her PhD dissertation “The People v the State: Housing Architecture in Mexico City from Modernism to Contemporary Practices” at the Courtauld Institute of Art, funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation. She received her Master’s degree in Cultural Studies and Critical theory from McMaster University and a BFA in Criticism and Curatorial Studies from the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity

Nathaniel Walker, Brown University

Nathaniel R. Walker is a graduate student in the History of Art & Architecture Department at Brown University. He received his BA in History from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and his MA in Architectural History from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where his Master’s Thesis, entitled “Savannah’s Lost Squares: The Fight Over Savannah’s Town Plan and the Ascendance of Automobility,” received the Outstanding Graduate Thesis Document Award in 2007. Between his time in Savannah and his enrollment at Brown, Nathaniel worked very happily at Mitchell/Matthews Architects & Planners in Charlottesville, Virginia. With his Ph.D. studies, Nathaniel is working to build upon and broaden the scope of a number of the questions he raised while exploring competing conceptions of “Modernity” in 1920s Savannah. Specifically, he is interested in Utopian design and planning in the age of self-conscious “progress” and technological exhibitionism in art, literature, politics, and architecture. 

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Civil Rights Memorial Tour

Martin Holland and additional fellowship awardees Grace Dubinson and Carey Shellman

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Legacy of Daniel Burnham Tour

Catherine C. Boland

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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MOMA Study Day on Prefabricated Housing

Mrinalini Rajagopalan

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Naples and Campania Tour

Mia Reinoso Genoni

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Estates and Gardens of Chicago's North Shore

Baird Jarman

Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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Louis I. Kahn Tour

Amber Wiley and Jennifer Tobias on the Louis Kahn tour

Amber is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at the George Washington University specializing in architectural history, urban history, and African-American cultural studies. She is the recipient of the 2010 AERA Minority Fellowship in Education Research and the 2008 SRI Foundation Research Fellow Scholarship for her dissertation “Concrete Solutions: Architecture of Public High Schools During the ‘Urban Crisis’” (Richard Longstreth, committee chair). She received her BA in Architecture from Yale University and her Master’s in Architectural History and Certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia. Amber sits on the board of directors of the Latrobe Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians and the Yale Black Alumni Association. www.ambernwiley.com


Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

by Erica Morawski | Jan 25, 2013

They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 





Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.
 

One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 





I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

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