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12 m. long Challenging the Power(s) of Spectacle

project 1 MeanInc

scanning MeanINC in Havana Some are already there; several places and buildings where the city has been packaged for tourists. Others will be added to the catalogue of MeanINC architecture and places. The archipelagos will function as attractors in order to develop other authentic although now unimportant areas where Leal’s “successful” formula could be implemented. These archipelagos will radically fulfil tourist’s expectations, as promised by the tourist industry, and their areas of action will be strongly constrained.

Reintroducing the City in Havana fünDC BV | Paz Martín + César García

(MONITOR 1: VIDEO MIX SCREEN SIZE 1.50x1.00 m. APROX)

(MONITOR 2: MOVIE SCREEN SIZE 1.50x1.00 m. APROX)

Domestic Manoeuvres are an informal but resolute counter power that builds the city from within on the by-products of Spectacle. They are pragmatic survival strategies executed by Havana citizens who cope with the built urban tissue and ownership regulations & restrictions. Practices like housing interchange, cuarterias –old subdivided houses-, barbacoas –informal mezzanines-, etc. represent alternative ways to activate the urban structure without considering meanINC. The consequences of these manoeuvres seem to stir the local debate of which areas must be or not renovated in the City while illustrating an outstanding tactic of how the complex is been domesticated through extremely pragmatic and small scale interventions. In an informal way for visitors, they subconsciously represent an important attractor and differentiating point of Havana: bursting inventive, educated and friendly life which rides roughshod over any built container or social structure.

Spectacle’s Island

Havana Key Three Interventions Tourism is simultaneously a cultural product and a producer of culture . A complex and collective construction by tourists, entrepreneurs and planners with different layers of corrosion; the following three interventions challenge the duality of Powers at play by constraining and canalizing their effects.

Several cities in the contemporary capitalistic world as well as in the remains of the socialist era have undergone the process of Spectacleisation, but none have done it like Havana: in a space of six decades has gone from Spectacle-isation to De-Spectacle-isation to ReSpectacle-isation while keeping the same building substance.

2007

The interventions are a critical reappraisal of the possibilities of the city as concept. Each one is an incursion into the POWERS that were, are & will be shaping Havana; an attempt to anticipate its future in the hope that as the city is further absorbed by the global tourism machine, it will give an authentic meaning, of its own.

The re-introduction of Spectacle in the 90’s has led Havana to a dualistic system: two currencies, two societies, a two-tier economy. This system fosters a state of apartheid in a city where the Power of Spectacle (tourism) and Domestic Manoeuvres (an informal but resolute counter power that builds the city from within on the by-products of Spectacle) meet.

UT YO LA ) R NLY FO O TE ES ET OS OU P

H IL (S

Tourism is simultaneously a cultural product and a producer of culture . It is a complex and collective construction by tourists, entrepreneurs and planners with different layers of corrosion. Three proposed interventions challenge the Powers at play by constraining and canalizing their effects. The interventions are a critical reappraisal, through specific proposals, of the possibilities of the city as a concept. Each one is an incursion into the POWERS that were, are & will be shaping Havana; an attempt to anticipate its future in the hope that as the city is further absorbed by the global tourism machine, it will give an authentic meaning of its own.

Havana Several cities in the contemporary capitalistic world as well as in the remains of the socialist era have undergone the process of Spectacleisation, but none have done it like Havana, which in a timespan of six decades has gone from Spectacle-isation to De-Spectacle-isation to ReSpectacle-isation while keeping the building substance.

project 3 reintroducing the city

Architecture as Backbone

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The extreme tension area created in the strait of water, which separates reverence for the existing from the worship of excess, is activated by necessity: seawater transport (now barely existing) eventually stimulates the whole city waterfront, immediately upgrading transport’s infrastructure system and linking meanINC areas.

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Photos by Paz Martín, Marisol Rivas Velázquez, César García & Christian Schmutz

A key power in today’s cities production is the transformation of cities into places of visual consumption, its Spectacle-isation. This efficient and complex system camouflages an uncontrolled economical offensive by producing, (re)inventing, and/or attaching artificial meaning to specific places. This artificial meaning or MeanINC is a device that reconceptualises the history of buildings or places through a process of amplification or modification of the built environment. MeanINC has become the Trojan Horse of tourism. It suggests the fragile promise of recognition –the link between places with fame aspirations and a global world of political and corporate interests. It produces a stereotype, and with it an alienation that compresses the imaginary projections of the foreign and tourist initiatives with the everyday reality of the local, resulting in the city’s “ascension” into myth.

(POSSIBLE POSITION OF TABLE WITH URBAN MODEL ON TOP) In contrast with other Latin-American cities with a boosting growth since the 60’s due to massive migration from the country side, Havana has kept a similar amount of inhabitants (2.2 million, 19.3% of the country) since 1959. The urban structure of Havana is a state of exception, an untouched field where the pressures that shaped metropolises during the last forty years seem not to be present.

Machado & Batista: Spectacle-isation of Havana During the 50s Havana, the so called “Little Princess of the Sea” was loaded with the flashy vision of a bourgeois capital for the American tourists, a spectacle of excess. The vision gave birth to MeanINC architecture of hotels, casinos and nightclubs. Josep Lluis Sert’s Plan Piloto (1955-58) summarizes the desires of this time: endless views to the sea and a monumental urban celebration dressed in a modern casual code.

Revolution: De-Spectacle-isation as a pragmatique doctrine In 1959 when revolution took over Havana the disparity between the spectacular capital and the impoverished countryside became a topic for consideration. From this point on, greater efforts were devoted to the social and economic development of the rural areas. A strict migration policy controlling the distribution of population on the island gave way to a relevant change: the capital city lost its importance becoming equal (if not less) to the rest of the nation. Havana was no more seen as the “Little Princess”. The revolution refused to create an overall physical manifestation of itself through architecture; self-construction and utopias were replaced by repetition and prefabrication. The buildings of the excess were filled up by practicality. It was in this process of avoiding the increase of MeanINC that the values of the city and architecture decreased on intensity.

Special Period (and decade before): Re-Spectacle-isation of Havana In 1982, with the decree of Old Havana as World Heritage Site, MeanINC was officially re-introduced being architecture one of the most important elements in the reconstruction of this overpopulated and decadent city centre. After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc Cuba entered an economical crisis which forced the goverment to declare a Special Period in Peace Time, Tourism seamed to be the main viable option to activate the economy. Under the guide of Dr. Eusebio Leal, and with full support of Fidel Castro, the City Historian’s Office had introduced new urban policies making possible the (re-)construction and restoration of the historical centre of Havana and other buildings and quarters. The strategy used is especially interesting as it implements Habaguanex , a company run by the City Historian’s Office, that in cooperation with European governments, finances building reconstruction parallel to other socialist projects from its benefits.

The new artificial environment is geographically reminiscent of the multiple thin straits of land (cayos - keys) which enter the Caribbean Sea around Cuba’s perimeter. These nowadays accommodate fenced tourist resorts. Cayo Havana will exacerbate these resorts’ apartheid condition, typologically defining itself as an autonomous waterfront high density development which paradoxically will also protect the authentic city as a breakwater.

Havana demands architecture of action that, like a sustainable infrastructure, is capable of delivering development free from imposed meaning without sacrificing beauty and the city itself. These in-between areas, MeanINC-free are the city itself; a space of urban consciousness, and, above all, a constructible and intelligible political form. This areas, deliver to inhabitants the opportunity to continue building their city, their environment and their identity while improving in a bottom-up, inside-out strategy in city’s urban tissue.

Spectacle & MeanINC 1 Playa del Este 2 Habana Vieja 3 Anti-imperialistic tribune 4 Havana Centre, Paseo del Prado, buildings with and without roofs next to each other 5 Havana Bay, view from Old Havana 6 Billboard in the streets of Havana 7 Billboard in the outskirts of Havana 8A/B Street in Old Havana, before restoration (2006) and after (2007) 9 Barrio Clarisa 10 Cienfuegos, Havana satellite town, built 1967 11 Hall of Fame in the Hotel Nacional built in 1929 12 Malecón at dawn 13 Model in the Hall of Fame of Hotel Nacional 14 El Club Nautico, 1957 15 Barbacoa at Plaza Vieja in Old Havana 16 El Tropicana, famous revue show, started in 1954 17 Hotel Melia Habana, 1990’s 18 La Bodeguita del Medio – on of the famous bars of Hemingway

To relieve the growing pressure of corrosive tourism into the city, in particular on the bay area, an archetype island is created as a preventive measure close to (but not in) Havana. At night the lights of Havana Key can be seen from downtown Havana across the water.

3 m. high

The re-introduction of Spectacle has led Havana to a dualistic system: two currencies, two societies, a two-tier economy. This system fosters a state of apartheid in a city where the Power of Spectacle (tourism) and Domestic Manoeuvres meet. This power and counter power symbolize the question mark of Havana’s future: the impossible blend between the social and the spectacular which should be resolved into equilibrium by adding new ingredients, in order to avoid the question mark which the world is waiting to see unveiled.

Domestic Manoeuvres

2025

Tourism or the Power of Spectacle

project 2 Cayo Habana

2015

a-u-r-a | Marisol Rivas Velázquez + Christian Schmutz


reintroducing Havana in 3rd Rotterdam Architecture Biennale, NL  

Several cities have undergone the process of Spectacle-isation through tourism, but none have done it like Havana. Three proposed interventi...

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