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Havana Waterfront Design Charrettes

Havana Harbor, Atares, Centro Habana, Regla, Habana del Este and Casablanca Cuba

port of havana waterfront

John Pilling photo

The first Havana Harbor Design meeting was held with the participation of people from Canada, Cuba, Europe and United States.

In the opening evening started with a reception at the Condes de Villanueva hotel in Old Havana where The Cuban Chapter of the Council for European Urbanism was successfully launched.

The revitalization of the Havana waterfront is one of the key concepts stated in the Master Plan for the Havana Waterfront and Harbor. This plan and meeting is a comprehensive urban project conceived and developed by Professor of Architecture Julio César Pérez Hernández of Ave. 37 No. 6611 San Antonio de los Baños 32500, La Habana, Cuba.

In early 2011, INTBAU hosted the Charrette 2011: Envisioning the Future of Havana. This was the fifth annual Havana urban design conference. This year the focus was on on Centro Habana urban design and planning.

Like the four that preceded it, the 2011 Cuban Charrette supported the concepts and principles proposed in “A Master Plan for 21st-Century Havana,” created by Cuban architect Julio César Pérez Hernández.


Professor of Architecture Orestes del Castillo (from the Office of the Historian of Old Havana) offered a detailed explanation of Old Havana, its historic background and current social programs on the first day.

Also, there was a walking tour of Habana Vieja and a boat tour of the harbor US architect Michael Mehaffy gave a lecture about his experience at a Katrina hurricane conference held in New Orleans and Cuban architect Roberto Moro (from the Physical Planning Department of Havana) shared his department’s information about Havana harbor area and its features.

Working teams were encouraged to be formed based on both affinity and expertise to start working in the different sectors of Havana harbor related to the plan mentioned above.

There were six teams in total, five of them concerning each of the sectors and an overseeing one led by Julio, Michael Mehaffy and Audun Engh. Claus Zapffe was in charge of developing and explaining the overall concepts of the Havana Waterfront Design plan and general strategy for the project.

Port of Havana Waterfront and Harbor design project

Sectors of Havana Harbor

Old Havana and Atares sectors

The creation of public space along the waterfront of Havana harbor and the concept of a spine boulevard was discussed along with relocation of industrial facilities that block the views of Havana harbor. The National Railroad Station, built in 1912, is a prime piece of Havana real estate that could be converted for better waterfront use.

The Atares Castle could be converted into a museum and the surrounding green area into a waterfront park.

Regla and Oil Refinery sectors

This area was reviewed based on the potential of the water body, the presence of local heritage, major residential, mixed use and recreational redevelopment site.

The oil refinery area is very large and the most significant source of pollution of Havana harbor. Environmental remediation and affordable housing can be achieved in this area but the relocation of the refinery and cesation of industrial activity are required. This would allow for the elimination of air pollution and water cleanup of the harbor.

Casablanca Cuba sector

The Casablanca area of Havana offers a unique topography along with three major landmarks - the Morro Castle built in 1630, the La Cabaña fortress built in 1774 and the 66' tall marble statue of Jesus Christ built in 1958 overlooking Havana harbor.

Overall Concepts for Development in the Port of Havana and Waterfront Area

1. A Spine boulevard. The creation of a boulevard spine accessible to all along the waterfront to ensure public space for backing up this general concept of the Master Plan for Havana. Plazas, squares, parks and a variety of promenades should be allowed to be part of this by framing views to the water and connecting adjacent streets.

2. Mix use. The design of mix use buildings to guarantee the vitality of the area at different times. Residential, cultural, commercial, office, hotel, entertainment and sports and leisure facilities are key uses to provide amenities able to redefine and give character to the site.

3. Change of character. The transformation of the current industrial character of the harbour and its turning into a recreational, commercial and sport harbour.

4. New buildings respond to waterfront. The design of buildings that respond to the waterfront. The buildings must be a sensitive response to the place in terms of context, history, geography and building culture in a way that they become urban architecture and help place making and not be isolated objects.

5. Open space must add value to both the waterfront and the city and must be defined by buildings that form a continuous urban edge with active ground floors uses related to them.

6. Gate to the city. The harbour site must become a gate to the city reinforcing this historic condition and giving Havana a new image in terms of both economy and urban values.

7. Green. The green must help weave visually and physically the whole area so it helps create a coherent landscape where architecture fits harmoniously.

8. Public transportation. A public transportation system must be envisioned to connect the whole site and to provide access to all areas.

9. Safe environment. Pollution must be eliminated as part of the sanitation of the bay and the rivers.

10. Social and cultural integration. The city, the towns, the neighbourhoods must guarantee that there’s no social exclusion for any reasons and should provide access to cultural life and all its manifestations.

11. A long term vision. As everything is connected with everything else, then the approach should a comprehensive one, that which allows conceiving all the issues as a whole with a systemic approach coming from the general to the particular, zooming in processes, places, etc.

2008 and 2009 Havana Harbour Charette

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