December 8, 2009
by Jeremy Edmunds P.E. Assoc. AIA LEED AP
Cuba is facing significant infrastructure, environmental and logistical challenges. A common theme is shortage; inextricably linked to this is the need for outside subsidies to close the gaps. Supply and demand of all types is a tug of war.

1-Cuba

Jeremy Edmunds

Aged housing stock is crumbling or approaching that state at a massive scale. An estimated 100,000 families are awaiting temporary shelter due to the dilapidated state of their current homes. Tenement housing is common with entire families living in a single room in old colonial mansions. Transportation is another key challenge. While 1,500 private buses serve 15% of the population, only 600 public buses serve the remaining 85%. Most of the railways are dedicated to moving cargo like sugar — not people.

2-Cuba

Jeremy Edmunds

On the other hand, urban farming is flourishing in Cuba. Although born out of necessity, the movement is growing. When tractors became scarce, livestock was used to till the land. When fertilizer became scarce, treated composted sewage was used instead. Amazingly, every Cuban city has agriculture. Havana alone has 2,000 acres of farms including yard gardens, green roofs, and planted vacant lots. The Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity was formed in 1997 to promulgate design and management principles to deliver food sustainably. Urban farming produces an estimated 20-30% of the total produce consumed in Cuba.

3-UrbanFarming

Pictured: the group met with Foundation Coordinator Maria Caridad Cruz, who presented the organization’s local sustainable farming efforts.

Jeremy Edmunds

Throughout the trip, the group also met with local planners, politicians, artists, and architects.
4-Farrar-Arrechea-Cordero

From left to right: Chief of Mission of the U.S. Interests Section Jonathan Farrar talking with Pedro Castillo; artist Alexandre Arrechea explains his series “Garden of Mistrust,” which plays off of issues of security, control, and paranoia with political irony; artist Raul Cordero is exceptional in his apolitical approach to art — his recent work incorporates the audio component of video projections though a coded series of dots that represent frequencies.

Jeremy Edmunds

The storied Escuelas Nacionales de Arte is undergoing renovation and completion after a hiatus since the project was halted in the 1960s.

5-EscuelasNacionales-1

One of three design architects, Roberto Gottardi (left), provided an extended tour. Some students were painting; others were engaged in a dance performance.

Jeremy Edmunds

Jeremy Edmunds, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, is a project manager and sustainability advisor. His blog can be found at jeremyedmunds.com.

BROWSER UPGRADE RECOMMENDED

Our website has detected that you are using a browser that will prevent you from accessing certain features. An upgrade is recommended to experience. Use the links below to upgrade your exisiting browser.