Recap :: Long Studio to Havana, Days 1 + 2

Photo By: Sylvia Williams
Led by BAC instructors John Pilling and Luis Montalvo, twelve Spring 2012 Long Studio students visited Havana, Cuba from February 10-20, 2012. Here is the first entry in a series of posts where John Pilling recounts their experiences.
Course title and description
Long Studio, Havana: Syncretic architecture:
difference, contact, and reconciliation

The syncretic merger of native, peninsular, African, European, and American influences over the centuries creates a surprisingly resilient Cuban culture.

Cuba was far enough from Spain, México and Peru to make quotidian decisions without intense oversight. Outside each city and cropland lies the wilderness of the ‘Monte,” where individuals ranging from the original Tainos to Castro’s rebels have hidden away to challenge authority.

Spirit persists to trump every outside force; these transformative practices affect Cuba’s expressive architecture and urban design. This studio studies the syncretic cultures of Cuba, the continuities and discontinuities through its architecture and urban design.

Travel explored Havana and its surrounding countryside, including meetings with the arts community to learn about Cuban’s environment, life and work. Travel research was documented with audio, still and moving images, and sketchbooks. Students are back in Boston, MA creating mixed-use buildings [ferry terminals and cultural resources] for Havana Harbor’s waterfront.

Thursday, February 9
We flew to Miami in the late afternoon so we’d have time to check in the next morning for the flight to Havana. We stayed at the Red Roof Inn at the airport and had dinner at the Bennigan’s next door. Since we stayed up past midnight, we could do the first celebration of Sylvia’s birthday.

Photo By: John Pilling
Friday, February 10
We checked in at 9 am for our 1 pm flight to Havana and landed around 2 pm. It took a little more than an hour to go through immigration, retrieve our luggage, and pass through customs. Yulenne, our tour guide, met us outside the arrivals area of the terminal. She confirmed that we were going to be staying at the Hotel Tulipan, which is across the street from the 19 de Novembre railroad station in Nuevo Vedado. 

Photo By: Sylvia Williams
The hotel welcomed us with refreshments. We asked if we could change the plans made for us for the evening by San Cristobal, which was a welcome dinner at the Tulipan, to dinner on our own in La Habana Vieja. She confirmed that it was possible to change, and she offered to drop us off in La Habana Vieja, and she dropped us off at the Plaza de Armas.

Luis explained the significance of the Templete while John checked to see if the roof terrace of the old American Embassy was open (it was closed). We went on to the roof terrace of the Hotel Ambos Mundos for a snack and refreshment. From there, we went to the Hostal Valencia for a dinner of Paella and another celebration of Sylvia’s birthday.

After dinner we walked along the Avenida del Puerto to the Punta Fortress an on to the Malecon and La Rampa to the Habana Libre Hotel and the Copelia Ice Cream Park. From Copelia we caught taxis back to the Hotel Tulipan.