Page 1

Vida la Cubanidad a pattern book for design + development

Table of Contents Introduction


Narrative Description of Development Location of Development

4 5-6

City + Regional Context


Physical + Market Challenges


Place Qualities


Vision + Design Principles


Building + Street Typologies




References + Photo Credits


Introduction The Vida la Cubanidad pattern book is a multi-purpose document compiled to guide development of a 200-acre site in Havana, Cuba. Meant for internal and/ or external use by designers, developers, and prospective residents, the book is designed to be both informative and inspiring. The reader should be left with an idea of what life will be like in the future mixed-use development. The book is organized into six main sections starting with a narrative description and discussion of the geographic location/context of the proposed site. In the city and regional context section, Havana is introduced as a vibrant city in transition. This is followed by an analysis of current physical and market challenges facing the city that should inform the development process. The fourth section takes a look at the place qualities that characterize Havana; from vegetation and materials to urban form/structure. This feeds into the vision and design principles developed for Vida la Cubanidad. There are three initial

visions, each with three accompanying design principles. These are meant to inform the design of the development at the macro-scale. More in depth design guidance is provided in the building and street typologies section. Two street and four building types are illustrated, intended to act as a preliminary form-based code for the project. Although Vida la Cubanidad is a development proposal aimed at turning a profit, it does not have to come at the expense of the Cuban way of life. The economic and quality of life benefits of a more market-oriented economy can be meshed with the social accomplishments of the revolution. The project should be cognizant of this balancing act from design through construction. The Vida la Cubanidad pattern book is meant to serve as a guide to achieving this end.


welcome to

Vida la Cubanidad

Coined by political scientist Jose Antonio Saco, Cubanidad refers to the common language and tradition shared by the Cuban people. It is a word emphasizing community and solidarity despite ethnic or racial differences. This term adequately describes much of Havana and its diverse neighborhoods and districts. In an effort to evoke this sense of place and culture, the development of a tourist community that embraces all of Havana is the central focus. The new community offers an experience and addresses a market that at present exists nowhere else in Havana. Dominated by large hotels built in the international style, the tourist experience can sometimes feel globalized and homogenous. Although this addresses one type of traveler, another exists hungry to experience Havana for what it is. The development site is nine miles west of Old Havana and requires just a two minute walk across the street to access the beautiful Caribbean. Among the attractions in close proximity is Marina

Hemingway, named after the famed author who spent a great deal of his life in the city. Also close by are the now uninhabited Cuban National Art Schools. An architecture buff’s dream, the schools’ offer a striking example of Cuba’s earliest and perhaps most coherent attempt to embody cubanidad in architectural form. A typical day in the community could consist of a variety of activities; many of which may not be directly associated with the development at all. Designed to house both extended stay tourists and habaneros, the resident will experience Cuban life in Havana from the standpoint of the local. This may mean cooking a meal using ingredients from one of several organic gardens maintained by the residents themselves. Each of the barbacoa loft-style units has access to shared kitchen facilities connecting residents to one another. Serving dual purposes, the community is planned to provide a lively and spontaneous atmosphere, reminiscent of the flow of Havana itself.


Proposed Site Aerial Downtown Havana

Marina Hemingway

Playa de Santa Fe

Entry from coastal road

Santa Fe, La Habana

The aerial image on the facing page illustrates the location of the proposed development in its immediate context. The site is situated at the mouth of a small inlet adjacent to a coastal road. Ideally the project will act as a connective neighborhood, bridging the existing developments on either side of the site. Santa Fe (below the site in the aerial image) is a fishing village characterized by modest single family homes and 3-story mixed use buildings. Just south of Santa Fe is a small airport (Aeropuerto Orlando Beltran) that houses personal planes and operates short island hopper trips. Moving inland from the water, the site borders a tree plantation and larger scale agricultural parcels. The site is in close proximity to old Havana (9 miles west) yet far enough that it will be able to maintain its own distinct feel as another of the city’s polycentric activity nodes.


City + Regional Context HAVANA, CUBA

Havana, the capital city of Cuba, can be most easily described as lively, colorful, and eclectic. The city’s various cultures and subcultures give it a vigor and uniqueness difficult to find elsewhere in the Caribbean. One of the most sustainable cities in the world, Havana is dotted with public gardens and farmers markets reinforcing the dominance of street life and the public realm to the character of the city. At night, the city’s older residential neighborhoods slow down, In many manifestations, however, Havana is a city in flux. The coexistence between an international culture of globalization and a more local historic culture is a line that has been walked precariously for some time. This is due in large part to the way the city has been shaped by political forces. The city skyline is for the most part uniformly mid-rise. There are a number of larger high-rise hotels (i.e. Hotel Nacional) built in the 1930s that rise up above the historic fabric of old Havana pointing to the nation’s pre-revolutionary focus on global tourism and entry into the world economy.

This type of development, however, was squelched with the 1959 rise to power of Fidel Castro. As a result, Cuba avoided traveling down a path of “Cancunization” but instead face ills common to many socialist and post-socialist urban areas; namely food shortages a rapidly deteriorating housing stock. A more positive effect of this political paradigm shift was the focus on investment in public spaces and civic institutions. As a result, Havana has four large plazas all within a five minute walk from each other. There is also a large seawall promenade (Malecon) and pedestrian boulevard (Paseo del Prado) making Havana an extremely pedestrian and bicycle friendly city in the present. With the transfer of power from Fidel to Raul Castro, many are looking at Cuba to re-open its doors to the United States and the world economy. What this will mean to the development of the built environment of Havana is a critical question to ask and one sure to garner a lot of interest from a variety of stakeholders.


Physical + Market Challenges

“Havana’s risks and opportunities vary across sectors. Population, housing, social services, education, culture, transportation, road networks, water supply, communications, and energy and household fuel all pose distinct challenges. At the same time, however, underlying each problem is a basis for improvement and lessons to be learned about Havana’s future.” - Joseph L. Scarpaci



The market outlook for Havana is one of excitement and uncertainty. Many are expecting the eventual opening up of Cuba to the United States which could significantly increase the demand for development in a tourism-related capacity. There are a number of overarching market challenges/ opportunities that could be addressed in concert with future development. The lack of sufficient housing for workers/locals: although homelessness is not an issue, the quality of housing is. It is estimated that 60,000 units need to be replaced and half of the city’s stock is in average or poor condition. Some of the buildings are in such bad shape that partial collapses are not uncommon. Foreign investment and joint ventures in development have the potential to greatly improve the city’s housing stock and accelerate the low and often irregular pace of new construction. Potential for building rehabilitation for residential use: Although many former mansions/country clubs have been converted to government facilities or institutional uses, the retrofit of older buildings for residential use has been largely absent. This has the potential to fulfill two market gaps: the need for services related to conservation and historic preservation and the addition of much needed residential units.

Popular destination for worldwide tourists: Havana’s temperate climate, public beaches, and architectural beauty (UNESCO designated) has made it an increasingly popular international tourist destination since the government gave the industry a second look in the early 1990s. Cultural tourism stems from interest in the political revolution as well as Afro-Cuban music (rumba) and spirituality (Santeria: the Island’s Afro-Catholic belief system). Eco-tourism has also grown in recent years as Havana has developed a reputation for sustainability and life after oil. Las Terazzas is Cuba’s premier eco-resort and is located about an hour outside Havana. The growing trend in the tourism market is joint ventures in an effort to attract foreign capital to the city.

Installations at the 10th Havana Arts Biennial

Burgeoning creative class: Havana has a steadily growing concentration of theatres, art galleries, internationally renowned artists, and global art/culture events and festivals (such as the Havana Arts Biennial) that should be capitalized on. Smaller, neighborhoodbased music/dance, theatre, and cultural events hold great potential for small business and local tourism, especially at the outskirts of Havana’s city limits where these facilities and accompanying social services are under-supplied. Given the location of the potential site, this market sector has great potential to act as a catalyzing tool for economic development. Economic Transition: Perhaps the largest market opportunity in Havana is Cuba’s progression to a more mixed economy. The government has become more open to market influence and a number of multi-national corporations including ING Bank (Netherlands), Labatt (Canada), Grupo Domos (Mexico), and Pernod Ricard (France) have invested in the city.*

* Segre, Roberto, Mario Coyula, and Joseph L. Scarpaci. Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis. Chichester: J. Wiley, 1997.



The major considerations in this regard are climate change, transportation, infrastructure quality/access, and sustainability. Transportation in Havana is mostly via bicycle, bus, or taxi (coco taxis) . The private automobile accounts for less than 6% of trips. Although buses run regularly, 50% of routes have been cut since 1997 due to fuel shortages. Service is intermittent at best between the city center and inner suburbs. The number of bikes in Havana skyrocketed in the early 1990s; from 70,000 in 1990 to nearly 1 million in 1995 due to a government initiative that made purchasing a bike extremely cost-effective ($2 for students and $6 for workers).* As a result, the majority of trips in the present are made on bicycles. The proposed development will be dense enough to walk for some daily trips, but a bike share system should be implemented to aid in mobility within the site as well as for trips outside the development to adjacent neighborhoods. To get to downtown Havana, however, another mode of public transportation will need to be provided. A shuttle or bus route will likely be the most feasible option for this. As the Cuban economy recovers, there is a chance the private automobile will begin to grow in popularity. Although Vida la Cubanidad is meant to be bike/pedestrian friendly, adequate on site parking facilities will need to be provided as well. * Segre, Roberto, Mario Coyula, and Joseph L. Scarpaci. Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis. Chichester: J. Wiley, 1997.

As a Caribbean coastal development, issues related to flooding and hurricanes will need to be addressed in both the design and construction of building and street types. The power of Hurricane Wilma in October of 2005 serves as a recent reminder of the destruction that these weather patterns are capable of. The storm cost the Cuban government over $700 million in damages.** Although the majority of development on the site is intended to be set back from the coast for this reason, the layout of the final master plan should still be cognizant of this issue.

Top: Hurricane Wilma flooding in Santa Fe, La Habana Bottom: Bicycle culture in Havana Vieja

Given the development’s location at the outskirts of Havana, access to adequate infrastructure and utilities will be of critical concern. In the city, public street lighting is often insufficient and in need of repair and maintenance. Coastal neighborhoods sometimes have water supply problems due to leakage in the system and saltwater intrusion in the aquifer. Digital infrastructure is also an issue in Havana. Both internet and telephone access is severely limited throughout the city. In fact, Havana is characterized by one of the lowest telephone indexes in Latin America at just 12.5 per 100 inhabitants.*** Each of these challenges will have to be addressed if the project hopes to attract tourists and visitors from Europe and North America.

** “ReliefWeb » Document Preview » Hurricane Wilma Exacts Losses of 704 Million Dollars: Cuban Government.” ReliefWeb » Home Page. Web. 04 May 2010. <>

*** Segre, Roberto, Mario Coyula, and Joseph L. Scarpaci. Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis. Chichester: J. Wiley, 1997.


Place Qualities

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Havana is a city of unfinished works, of the feeble, the asymmetrical, and the abandoned... Yet it was something else to stroll through the city. Behind those formidable and sad walls was a world of color and gaiety. A kaleidoscopic juxtaposition of races and ethnic shades, of historical stages.â&#x20AC;? - Julio Le Riverend & Alejo Carpentier


Native/Endemic Vegetation Havana boasts a rich and unique natural environment characterized by diverse swamp, savanna, rainforest, and mountain ecosystems. Nearly half of the plant species on the entire island of Cuba are endemic, meaning they are only found here in their natural state. This points to the incredible biodiversity of Havana; a quality that should be emphasized in the developmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s planting plan. Havana is also a leader in organic urban agriculture with gardens growing a variety of crops from tobacco and sugarcane to sweet potatoes and beans. There are over 26,000 popular (public) gardens in Havana and over 50% of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fresh produce is grown within city limits. Included on this page are five tree species that are most representative of Havanaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s natural environment. The facing page includes five flowering plant species chosen for their particular color palette and natural properties.

Ficus Aurea Useful as a unique ornamental as it is less aggressive than other fig species. Can be used as live fencing and to conserve energy via “enviroscaping.”

Mariposa Blanca The national flower of Cuba, but not endemic to the island. Very fragrant and easy to maintain. Good for use as a garden ornamental.

Blue Mahoe Rapid growing tree native to Cuba and often used in reforestation efforts. The species’ flowers change color as it matures from bright yellow to crimson.

Lignum Vitae Slow growing species with light blue to purple flowers. Wood from the plant is used for a variety of purposes. The national flower of Jamaica.

Cuban Laurel Rapidly growing with a round headed crown. Is drought and salt tolerant. Few aerial roots are produced making this an excellent street tree.

Wild Lime A durable shrub good for ground cover or barrier plantings. Provides habitat for a number of insects and birds.

Cuban Royal Palm The national tree of Cuba. Grows 50-70 feet tall and does best with a lot of sun in a slightly acidic soil. Grows faster than most other palms.

Geiger Tree Drought tolerant and widely planted throughout the tropics as an ornamental due to its deep orange flowers.

Ceiba (Kapok) Tree The Kapok species of the Ceiba tree can grow up to 230 feet tall. Characterized by a thick, buttressed trunk and large seed pods.

Cuban Orchid Native to Cuba, these come in a variety of different cultivars and are good for mass plantings and landscape applications.


Building Materials + Climatological Concerns The built environment of Havana is in many ways a balance of extremes. The majority of structures are brightly colored yet crumbling; light while maintaining an edgy, worn feel. Depending on where you are in the city, the materiality of the buildings changes as well. In the more affluent Miramar neighborhood, buildings are newer, larger, and more opulent while in central Havana (Havana Centro) much of the local population lives in self-made/converted housing using whatever materials they can find or obtain from the central government.. A relatively recent trend in Cuban construction has been the use of eco-materials and waste by-products. Eco-materials are locally produced via small-scale decentralized production and when used, inject capital into the local economy. This is a promising development given the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s historic lack of material availability. As Havana is located on an Island in the Caribbean, it is highly susceptible to hurricanes, strong winds, and tropical downpours. This means building materials are prone to wind and salt water weathering as well as expansion and contraction if joints are not sealed appropriately.

“The specific building materials of Havana are directly related to the cornucopia of architectural styles that characterize the city. For instance, art deco utilized sumptuous building materials like terra cotta, stained glass, polished brass/bronze, and colorful terrazzo while Havana’s more modernist buildings favor thin shell concrete and smooth stucco”

Art Nouveau architectural style

Terra cotta roofs, Havana

Sugar cane bagasse can be used in composite concrete and as fuel

Cafe Interior, Vedado

Brightly colored facade details

Paseo del Prado terrazzo walkway; Havana

Havana’s weathered and decayed building stock

Stained Glass; Havana Vieja


Urban Form + Cultural Patterns The physical form of Havana can be clearly split into three major morphologies (displayed graphically on the facing page). The most dense and organic street/block layout can be found in central and old Havana. Here the streets are very narrow and the spanish-inspired grid is much looser, characterized by curvilinear streets as a result of the waterfront. Vertically, most of the structures are below 7-8 stories. Moving out from the central city, the Miramar/Vedado areas are characterized by a more pronounced grid with wider, tree-lined boulevards. This is the location of many of the major high-rise hotels and amenities for visitors within the city. Last are Havanaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s newer (circa 1920s) suburban districts such as Cubanacan and Marianao. These are much lower density and contain larger, estate-like homes. Many of these, however, were converted to government facilities after the revolution. For instance, the Cuban National Art Schools mentioned earlier are located in Cubanacan on the site of a former country club. Given the location of the proposed development site and the nature of surrounding neighborhoods, the street pattern most applicable to Vida la Cubanidad will be a mix between the likes of Cubanacan and Miramar.

Havana Centro










Vision Plan + Design Principles These vision statements and more directed design principles are future-oriented goals and targets intended to guide the decision making processes of both the designer and developer. Meant to educate and inspire, these principles should frame the issues that are critical to address in achieving the projectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s desired outcome.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;The great challenge, for Havana as for so many cities around the world, will be to figure out a way to maintain the authenticity that is so essential to the potency of the city (...) the challenge is to find a middle way, to balance new construction along with old, to recognize scale, to celebrate the importance of the street and public placesâ&#x20AC;? - Paul Goldberger


la Cubanidad will be an inclusive, 1 Vida welcoming community tolerant of both locals and visitors.

Although west of Old Havana and Havana Vieja, the development site is situated adjacent to an existing community and along a heavily used coastal thoroughfare. This location should be approached strategically in terms of managing the relationships between permanent, temporary, and seasonal residents as well as daily visitors to the development from other parts of Havana. This will mean providing for a variety of program/service types relevant to the cultural practices and expectations associated with such a diverse base of potential users. Historically, Havana has been characterized by a state-mandated â&#x20AC;&#x153;tourism apartheidâ&#x20AC;? in which local residents were not permitted to frequent the hotels and restaurants marketed to tourists. This was as much an effort to shield Cubanos from the harmful effects of tourism as it was to protect the tourists themselves. Vida la Cubanidad rejects this model in designing a community absent of any homogenous zones or districts. In achieving the following design principles, public participation at all stages of the process will be critical.

Design Principle 1.1 The site should serve as a physical and social extension of proximate development patterns. It is important for the design to be cognizant of existing development east of the site boundaries. An extension of this fabric that is comparable in scale, density, and material will work to minimize any perceived shifts in place quality moving in and out of the neighborhood. In other words, The technical/legal boundaries of the site should be “soft” and “porous” as opposed to being formally delineated by fencing or large signage. Involving adjacent residents early is key in achieving this goal.

Design Principle 1.2 Reinterpretation of vernacular housing practices and typologies Havana is characterized by a unique variety of housing types due to a welldocumented shortage in supply under the Castro regime. The purpose of this design principle is to transform a negative reality of the Cuban system into a form that is functional, unique, and positive. An example is that of the barbacoa: informal structures that appear in the interior of existing buildings throughout the city of Havana. These self-made loft units illustrate a contemporary spatial expression of the ingenuity and drive of the Cubanos.

Design Principle 1.3 A mix of residents at different price points should be actively sought to fill the community One of the key’s to the activation of a vibrant new district is the extent to which people of differing backgrounds live together. This will require innovative marketing and financing strategies as well as a sustained effort to ensure that the tenant mix works to maintain the desired atmosphere of diversity.



la Cubanidad will become a unique 2 Vida district in which tenants take ownership of the community, personalizing and maintaining both public and private space.

The most attractive neighborhoods in Cuba are those in which residents/business owners take on the formality of urban spatial conditions. In doing this, they develop methods of visual organization that over time serve to differentiate the neighborhood or district from others in the urban system. This may come in the form of public art, structural additions, vacant lot uses, public gardens, signage, color, etc. This process of adaptive, informal design will be facilitated by guidelines strict enough to maintain a coherent feel yet loose enough to allow for creativity of expression among residents. The result is the somewhat organic development of a new district that is unique, carving out an identity/place for itself in greater Havana.

Design Principle 2.1 Capitalize on Havana’s success with urban agriculture. Havana’s recent history of state-sponsored community-run gardens (organiponicos) has been greatly publicized within the last few years. Originally a response to shortages following the collapse of the Soviet Union, now more food is grown in Havana than in any other city in the world. Tracts of land with favorable soil properties should be set aside on site to continue this tradition. Residents and store/restaurant owners will be able to plant and maintain these gardens with guidance from a small staff of knowledgeable urban gardeners.


Design Principle 2.2 Emphasize an innovative design aesthetic loose enough to interpret/change as tenants change. The character of Havana’s older neighborhoods and to a large extent many of its newer suburbs are anything but homogenous. Havana has been influenced by a number of competing architectural styles from colonial to art nouveau/art deco to modernism. This mix of styles coupled with color variations and a multi-leveled roofscape result in an urban form that appears textured, layered, and organic. This quality should be reinterpreted to accommodate the needs of a flexible and changing base of users. Developing mechanisms for residents to participate in the physical design of the site will be critical in following this principle.

Design Principle 2.3 Follow a contextually appropriate neighborhood model as opposed to that of a resort community. Vida la Cubanidad should be a coherent neighborhood. Land use should be delineated from parcel to parcel to ensure the right mix of services. One of the characteristics of Cuban neighborhoods that should be emphasized in this project is the primacy of the street and public life. Roads on the site should be walkable and include programming for human-scaled occupation such as movable street furniture, tables, etc. Ground floor structures should be open air, incorporating covered arcades where appropriate. STREET LIFE IN HAVANA


la Cubanidad will build upon 3 Vida Havana’s recent culture of ecological

sustainability, becoming one of Havana’s greenest communities. The ideals associated with the socialist political structure of Havana have elicited a sort “green by default” lifestyle in the present. Havana’s popular (public) gardens are the most identifiable example of green living in the city, yet other movements are emerging widening the scope of sustainability on the Island. As previously mentioned,the city is one of the most bike-friendly in the world. It features over 26km of nonmotorized, cyclist specific paths crisscrossing Havana and its suburbs. The automobile has never been a dominant mode of transportation in the city, and its existing infrastructure reflects this reality. It is important for the project to be supportive of this lifestyle, reinforcing the importance of sustainable development in a part of the world that may be among the first to see the effects of global climate change.

Design Principle 3.1 Design and construction should be conscious of climatological conditions.

Design Principle 3.2 Development should be characterized by a landscape of flexibility and evolution.

Damage to the built environment due to climatological conditions is a factor that must be taken into account during both the schematic and detailed design of the site. Hurricanes are an especially relevant threat given the siteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proximity to the shoreline. Structures and landscape elements must be able to withstand considerable rain and wind due to tropical downpours as well. As can be seen in some of the older buildings in Havana, wind and salt water weathering can quickly deteriorate coastal structures. This means issues related to expansion and contraction of materials over time will also need to be addressed.

The rationale behind this principle is based in sustainability, aesthetics, and maintenance. Landscape design should be loose, fluid, and seamlessly integrated with built components of the project. In this vein, natural areas should emerge gradually and be linked throughout the site in a comprehensive system rather than rigidly delineated. This type of landscape should utilize endemic vegetation and elicit a natural, organic feel. Such a design requires less maintenance while performing the same ecological functions as a more actively managed landscape.


Design Principle 3.3 Use local, ecologically sensitive building materials. Buildings in Havana utilize a wide variety of materials based on availability and the prevailing architectural theories of the time. A more recent movement has been the use of eco-materials and agricultural waste products such as sugar cane bagasse. There are currently 19 ecomaterial workshops throughout Cuba where building materials are produced and distributed locally at an affordable price point. This allows residents to purchase both cheap and sustainable materials that they can use to complete custom renovations/additions (SEE vision 2). Vida la Cubanidad should use as many of these locally produced eco-materials as possible, adding to the sustainability of the project and injecting capital into an emerging industry in Havana.


Building + Street Typologies This section provides design direction with regards to the different housing and street types to be included in the development. The street typologies are reminiscent of a number of streets in Havana. The residential street is meant to be narrow and accessible to the pedestrian, but less so the car. The idea here is to make the street an extension of the home - a linear outdoor room. The retail street is wider and accommodates more on street parking, but is still programmed with the pedestrian in mind first. The Building types are in large part a product of the program. However, they include details and take lessons from Havanaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history of informal housing practices. Four of these are illustrated on the facing page highlighting the importance of housing that can be easily adaptable. A major theme of these studies in form is that they emphasize the temperate climate of Havana, providing multiple opportunities for residents to spend time outside the confines of the traditional home. The structural typologies included in the following pages seek to build upon these ideas, allowing for flexibility in use over time while responding to certain physical and climatological issues.

STAIRWAY SPLIT Common in the lower density outskirts of Havana, the stairway split occurs when a larger home or mansion is horizontally and/ or vertically subdivided to house multiple families. The stairs are then relocated to outside the house to allow for separate entry into the newly created units.

PLACA A horizontal subdivision that spans the floor area. Placas are common solutions to make use of attic space in structures with shallow pitched roofs. These additions tend to be more permanent and often occur to accommodate a growing family. They are generally built in concrete and have several rooms, functioning as an additional floor, nearly doubling the usable space in the building.

BARBACOA LOFT Barbacoas are the most common type of ad hoc structural additions to housing in Havana’s older neighborhoods. These are quickly assembled lofts used for sleeping in an effort to gain additional usable floor space. The result of this practice on Havana’s housing stock is that many of the structures have varied interior vertical dimensions, ranging anywhere from 20’ to 7’ ceilings.

CASETA EN AZOTEA Most of the older multi-story structures (as well as newer development) in Havana have flat, accessible roofs. To accommodate the demand for additional units, people construct additions on top of the roofs of these buildings. This has resulted in a vertically variable “roofscape” that acts almost as a second landscape above the city streets below. These additions are encouraged in many instances, as they are the easiest to connect to services.


Retail Street

Retail streets in the development should be two lanes wide with one lane of traffic in each direction. Angled parking is available on both sides of the street. There are 12’ covered walkways and an elevated 4’ wide bike lane buffered by a 4’ continuous vegetation/street tree zone. The bike lane is adjacent to the covered walkway to reflect the nature of Havana’s shared-use alternative thoroughfares. Cross walks are 8’ in width and should be clearly marked by 2’ wide stripes. Smaller stripes should indicate areas where pedestrians must cross the bicycle lane to enter sidewalk (SEE plan). Where angled parking terminates before an intersection, rain gardens will be constructed using vegetation tolerant of both dry and saturated conditions. These shallow depressions infitrate stormwater runoff while shielding the pedestrian from turning vehicles. Rain gardens also require little maintenance and upkeep.

Havana Street Life





4’ 4’








4’ 4’



Street Elements + Materials

Tree Spacing: 8’-12’ Lighting: Should be consistent in style and material with adjacent buildings. Human scaled lighting spaced at 25’-30’ intervals. Bike Parking: Should be provided under arcade in line with columns. Materials: Porous asphalt street Concrete/stone pavers or terrazzo pedestrian walkway Colored bike lane 8” high concrete curbs

Recommended Tree Palette




Street Trees: Roystonia regia (Cuban Royal Palm) Talipariti elatum (Blue Mahoe) Both species are relatively fast growing and can withstand the harshness of urban soil conditions. They are also native to the Caribbean climate. Blue Mahoe should be planted at corners due to its larger canopy requirements at maturity. Rain Gardens: Panicum virgatum (ornamental switchgrass) Canna indica (Canna lily) Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) This groundcover, wildflower, and small tree species’ thrive in wet or dry soil and should be mixed to achieve a more natural aesthetic.


Residential Street

Residential streets in the proposed development should be narrow and designed to promote a vibrant, active street life. This street type is intended to be more informal than the retail typology, allowing for a variety of activities and modal types to share the right of way. A series of one-way roads are suggested, with a 12’ shared lane (sufficient for passing) and a single 8’ on-street parallel parking lane. There should be a 4’ continuous landscaped buffer with shrubs and street trees as well as a 6’ sidewalk and 2’ of transition space into the open-air ground floors that front the single-family home typology. Side setbacks allow for a naturalized bioswale system to permeate neighborhood streets. This system will work to infiltrate runoff and serve as flood basins during major storm events.

Wood Deck in Baracoa

T Ped V Shared 2’ 6’ 4’ 12’ 44’

P 8’

V Ped T 4’ 6’ 2’

Street Elements + Materials

Tree Spacing: 20’-30’ Lighting: Should be softer than lighting used on retail streets. Human scaled lighting at corners coupled with house lighting should be sufficient. Bike Parking: 3-5 locks per block. Materials: Porous asphalt street Concrete/stone pavers sidewalk 6” high concrete curbs

Recommended Tree Palette


Street Trees: Ficus retusa ‘Green Gem’ (Cuban Laurel) Cordia sebestena (Geiger Tree) The Cuban Laurel is an especially good choice for residential streets. It has a dense, round canopy that will provide shade to both the sidewalk and street. This species also responds well to pruning and can be shaped to avoid contact with adjacent housing. The ‘Green Gem’ cultivar is resistant to thrips (a common pest) and is widely available in Havana. The Geiger Tree does well on the street, but can also be potted for use on decks and roofs. Ground cover/understory: Zanthoxylum fagara (Wild Lime) Prosthechea cochleata (Cuban Black Orchid) Wild lime is a durable groundcover good for use as a barrier planting. The black orchid’s varied, long-lasting flowers will provide an attractive aesthetic. 12’




Given the location of the site, it is likely that the major mixeduse streets will be oriented perpendicular to the coast line. For this reason, the mixed use typology features a consistent streetwall at the first floor level but steps back 3â&#x20AC;&#x2122; every 25â&#x20AC;&#x2122; at the second and third stories in order to maintain unobstructed views from the individual balconies. These stepped -back facades may vary from building to building to achieve a more aesthetically textured streetwall. Important to note in this typology is that parking has been included at roughly 2 spots per storefront and 1 per apartment. This may be decreased as most residents will probably not own a personal vehicle.


Use: Ground floor retail/office; 2nd and 3rd floor apartments Setbacks: Side: None Front: 8’ back from curb edge Rear: 54’ (dependent on parking requirement) Parcel Size: May vary in width, but should be 90’130’ deep and not exceed an area of 20,000 sq ft Lot Coverage: 35-50% varies with on-site parking requirement FAR: 1.1 - 1.6 varies with on-site parking requirement

Back Alley Center Line 7.5’ 20’


20’ 8’



Rear Setback Side Alley Center Line



7.5’ 6’ Arcade




The structures should be 3 to 4 stories in height. The ground floors should have taller ceilings (15’) than the apartments. Buildings should be built up to the sidewalk and will include an arcade a minimum of 12’ in width to shade the sidewalk. Balconies should be 4’ in width and 3’ in depth.

22’ Street Center Line

Facade Composition

Appropriate materials include concrete, masonry, wrought iron or wood details. Details should be brightly colored and varied along the face of the building. The ground floor should have rectangular columns every 25’ to support the arcade while maintaining a transparent streetwall. Ground floor retail should have large sliding doors that open during business hours to blur the distinction between the sidewalk and building interior.


X 4X-6X



The townhouse is meant to be located closest to the water as it is likely these units will be mostly occupied by tourists or extended stay travelers. For this reason, the structures are to be raised 8â&#x20AC;&#x2122; on stilts - a method of construction that has been used by Havana natives for hundreds of years. This will work to protect the unit from flood damage due to hurricanes while allowing for parking (one space per unit accessed via alley) and storage to be accommodated underneath the structure.


Use: Single family attached residential Setbacks: Side: None (when a cluster of townhouses breaks, there should be an 11’ side setback) Front: 9’ Rear: 20’ Garden Plot: Minimum 15’ x 15’ plots should be located in the rear of the parcel. May be combined with neighboring plots to form larger organiponicos. Parcel Size: May vary in area, but should be between 30’-50’ wide and 50’-70’ deep. Lot Coverage: 35% FAR: .7

Alley Center Line


Rear Setback

20’ 15’


15’ Garden Plots



Cluster Break



The structure should be raised 8’ above grade. There should be a maximum height of two stories with the second story within the roof. Roof should be pitched with a crowned top and should include skylight windows. There should be a wrap-around porch connected with neighboring buildings. Large doors should be located at the corners and longer sides of the structure. This coupled with long open windows will allow for breezeways and will maintain views to the water.

Front Setback


Street Center Line


Facade Composition

Appropriate roof materials include thatch, sugarcane bagasse, and terra cotta. Weatherproofed wood should make up the majority of the structure with locally manufactured concrete as needed.

6X 4X

X 3X


Apartment Complex

This typology features a varied, usable roofscape inspired by older multi-family adaptations in Havana (caseta en azotea). The apartment complex seeks to mesh the realities of existing soviet block housing with Havanaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s newer movements in eco-materials and pre-fabrication. This building type will accommodate 1, 2, and 3-bedroom units.

Alley Center Line


Use: Multi-family residential; possible ground floor retail Setbacks: Side: 8’ Front: 8’ from curb edge to arcade Rear: 30’ Parking: Small surface lot located behind building and accessible via 15’ wide alley. Meant primarily for carshare vehicles as most residents will not own personal vehicles. Parcel Size: May vary in area, but should be between 75’-100’ wide and 60’-90’ deep dependent on parking requirements. Lot Coverage: 35% FAR: 1.6






Rear Setback 10’

8’ Side Setback

8’ Front Setback 22’ Street Center Line


This typology should have wraparound communal balcony space characterized by round columns that provide a sense of enclosure/privacy while serving a structural purpose. The apartment can be modular based on unit requirements and should vary in height from 3 to 6 stories. All roofs should be accessible and usable as either gardens or decks. X 2X

Facade Composition

Innovation in building materials and manufacturing processes is encouraged within this typology. Havana’s growing eco-building market should be tapped into. Balcony and roof railings should be 4’ high and composed of wrought iron or corrugated steel siding. Columns should be precast concrete.



Single Family Home

The single family home is a reinterpretation of common Cuban self-help housing typologies. The use of these as inspiration can elicit some unique and culturally appropriate forms that are adaptable over time. This typology includes and open air first floor and large deck on the second. These unstructured components allow for users to create custom spaces based on changing needs. The 2nd story loft-style unit features a lower ceiling reminiscent of the intimate barbacoa lofts utilized by many locals in old Havana. A small front setback puts the building on the street, emphasizing the importance of street life in Cuban culture.


Use: Single family detached residential Setbacks: Side: 5.5’ from property line Front: 2’ transition zone Rear: 27’ Parking: Two spots per unit located behind the building and accessible via 15’ wide alley. Parcel Size: May vary in area, but should be between 35’-50’ wide and 65’-80’ deep. Lot Coverage: 55% FAR: .9



6’ 2’

Rear Setback 7.5’


5.5’ Side Setback


Front Setback / Transition Zone




Alley Center Line

The building should be 1 to 2 stories in height, with the ground floor at 12’ and the second story at 8’ partially within roof. Roofs should feature a shallow pitch with little to no overhang. Ground floor facing street should be open air with arched columns, creating an outdoor room. The relocation of stairs to outside the structure allows for separate access to deck and second story.

Facade Composition

Windows on first floor mimic the arched columns with larger rectangular windows facing the deck. Appropriate materials include wood, terra cotta, masonry, concrete. Deck should be wood with wood or iron railings.

X 3X


Conclusion + Project Analysis Below are a few project numbers based on the intended nature of the development. As can be seen, it is a little denser than surrounding development, but given the probable emergence of the site as an activity node this is appropriate. This higher density also allows for a higher percentage of land to be dedicated to green/public space. Total Units: 1400 Mixed-Use (280) Single-Family (560) Townhouse (280) Apartments (280) Overall Density: 12-15 units/acre Land Area Distribution Residential (80-100 acres or 40-50%) Green Space (20-40 acres or 10-20%) Commercial Areas (30-50 acres or 15-25%) Streets + Public Space (10-20 acres or 5-10%)

The information provided in the Vida la Cubanidad pattern book should serve as both a design tool for project architects/ planners and as a promotional document for the new development. Although the standards and typologies set out in the document should be adhered to, in no way are they meant to limit the creativity and originality of the designer. The intent is that they actually spur the opposite.

fleshed out more in depth. To that end, collaboration and multi-stakeholder input is expected and encouraged. Implementation will be key here and if done right, Vida la Cubanidad has the potential to become a premier model for joint venture new town development throughout the Caribbean.

After reading the pattern book, the designer will hopefully be able to get a sense of what the project should feel like on the ground. It is then his/her job to translate that sense of place into material reality. As for the developer, this document should illustrate that profit and progress are not mutually exclusive. The development proposed is socially and environmentally sustainable and has the potential to positively impact Havana at a regional scale. It is important to recognize that the Vida la Cubanidad pattern book is a preliminary development document. Many of the ideas presented here will need to be


References Buncombe, Andrew. “The Good Life in Havana: Cuba’s Green Revolution.” The Independent [London] 9 Aug. 2006. Print. Coyula, Mario, and Jill Hamberg. "The Case of Havana, Cuba." Urban Slum Report. Web. "Cubanidad - The Essence of Being Cuban - Cuba Culture News - Havana Journal." Havana Cuba Business Culture Politics and Travel News and Information. Web. 05 May 2010. <>. Edge, K., J. Scarpaci, and H. Woofter. "Mapping and Designing Havana: Republican, Socialist, and Global Spaces." Cities 23.2 (2006): 85-98. Web. Franz, Kai, and Caroline Pachoud. Squatted City. Havana. ETH Switzerland. Web. Havana: Urban Design and Planning - An Historical Perspective. Dir. Paul J. Lancaster. Insight-media, 2001. DVD. "Havana's Renaissance by Juliet Barclay." Cuba Absolutely Magazine, Havana Guide, What’s On Events & Festivals Listing, Arts & Culture, Travel & Tourism Information. Web. 05 May 2010. <>. Lacey, Marc. "With A Whisper, Cuba's Housing Market Booms." New York Times. 28 Jan. 2008. Web. < html?pagewanted=1&_r=2>. Loomis, John A. Revolution of Forms: Cuba's Forgotten Art Schools. New York: Princeton Architectural, 1999. Print. "ReliefWeb » Document Preview » Hurricane Wilma Exacts Losses of 704 Million Dollars: Cuban Government." ReliefWeb » Home Page. Web. 04 May 2010. <http://www.>. Scarpaci, Joseph L. "Cuban Housing." Cuban Housing. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Oct. 2007. Lecture. Segre, Roberto, Mario Coyula, and Joseph L. Scarpaci. Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis. Chichester: J. Wiley, 1997. Print. World Habitat Awards | Innovation. Sustainability. Transfer. Web. 05 May 2010. <http:// ectID=8CF5995B-15C5-F4C0-997B214C8DFB72F7>.

Photo Credits Page 3-4:; photo by Jeffrey Martin Page 7-8:; photo by Jeffrey Martin Page 9-10:; photo by Jeffrey Martin Page 12:; Havana Arts Biennial Page 14: Flickr; photo by Marie-Marthe Gagnon Page 14: Panoramio; Eddie Rui Page 15-16: photo by Jeffrey Martin Page 18: All vegetation photos courtesy of Cuba Naturaleza; cle&id=27&Itemid=28 Page 20:; photos by Jeffrey Martin Page 20: Research Institute for Sustainable Energy; Page 23-24:; photo by Jeffrey Martin Page 26: Photo by Patricio del Real Page 28: Organiponico photos by Page 28: Street life photos by Ethan Kent @ Project for Public Spaces Page 30:; photo by Jeffrey Martin Page 31-32:; photo by Jeffrey Martin Page


Matthew P. Ells University of Pennsylvania School of Design

Pattern Book  

Pattern Book: Havana, CUBA

Pattern Book  

Pattern Book: Havana, CUBA