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Havana VI


Diary, 27th October 1998:

Wasted a lot of time at the university today. Not the one in Havana, another one, a large Corbusian complex just outside of the city on the way to the airport. It is where the school of architecture resides. Large block slabs on pilotis, linked by covered walkways. We talked to students who were busy designing American style apartment blocks, that was what people wanted. Ugh, what a waste.

Eventually we got to El Cerro again. It is disquieting, combining lovely houses with impressive poverty. The garbage is hung from the trees so as not to draw vermin. We visited two houses in particular that have turned into labyrinths of subdivision. A girl, Diane, who had seen us walking around the day before, invited us to come and see her house. She spoke of an Italian boyfriend to whom she wanted to send a letter. Sal promised to help her. Her house had once been one of the original weekend villas built at the beginning of the century. We entered through the door and were led through a labyrinth of tiny rooms to a staircase. Ascending the stairs I was warned to be very careful, I was heavy. The floors were rotten through and covered inadequately here and there with zinc. In a dark bedroom a black woman wearing reading glasses and reading a book was completely ignored as we were shown the roof terrace. She did not appear to notice the intrusion. The book was absorbing all her dreams. The house had an incongruously decent bathroom; even though the floors and ceilings were so bad they could no longer be used.

Later we passed a lovely row of houses on the central road through the neighbourhood. We asked to go in and a formidable lady waved us through into a house with a similar layout to the one we had visited the day before: an apartment, rather beautifully appointed in renaissance motifs, without a staircase. The entrance looked straight out onto the narrow passage along the bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom en filade. The floor was covered in gorgeous tiles and bore light antique furniture in the entrance lobby arranged as in a theatre with pictures of Christ and old portrait photographs within the dark blue painted interior.

Havana's Technical Institute: Corb for the tropics Shady paths underneath the volumes: Corb wokrs best in hot countries...
  The School of Architecture: I was saddened by our visit there as the students seemed to have no pride in their own traditions. All they wanted to design were US style Condo's and this while we had been studying the rich morphology of El Cerro.
Blue The old villa is there in spirit, largely because of the floor
The central road separating two villas which, in other examples has been converted into a ciudadela. The two rounded openings are mirrored back doors, connecting the front doorr directly to the garden at the back.  
Bedroom with washing The way verandas work
Sal in a ciudadela One of the house interiors in a ciudadela house. OUtside stands the watertank.
  The lady leaning on her gate watching life go by is going to invite us into her house
The side passage connecting the front door to the back Same, taken from inside the house
What really matters The living room divided into two spaces by way of turned columns. The rocking chair at centre bottom is the same one as in the picture below. It is the one on the right. There was no indication as to why she had the chairs arranged in this way. Maybe they used it as a small music room.
  A small auditorium
El Cerro: ways of dealing with garbage  
Interpentrating verandas  
What you have left when you take away the veranda and its colonnade  



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