I study architecture at The A.A. in London. Reticence to normal schooling running deep in the family, I chose this school because it dispenses with formality and essentially focuses on hands-on projects. My project for this year is based in Cuba and, during a recent field trip, I took the photographs you see on this page.
There were 12 of us in the group, including our 2 tutors. And we had worked remotely on the basic ideas and layouts of our projects for a couple of months before heading out. We had no other constraint than a fixed plot size (100m x 100m) and the purpose of creating housing. The rest is up to us.
The goal of the trip was to find a suitable plot of land for our projects, survey the area and get a better understanding of local life and its urban architectural tradition.
Some will build cement modern housing, others, ground hugging abodes made of clay. We have the libraries, we have the software, we have the maps. But no book can tell you what life feels like, or what the energy of a specific location is, as well as actual footwork can.
So, during the first days of our stay, discovery was the main item on our plates and we walked and took notes endlessly. The photographs on this page are some of my notes.
Half-ways between essential subject matter and touristic leisure, those photographs simply highlight what struck me at the time. The weathered concrete. The beautiful light projected onto broken surfaces through the criss-cross of ancient lattices and pergolas. The organic shapes and joyful colours.
Because of the nature of my visit, few of these photographs depict the famous avenues or iconic locations. There was simply no time.
But they do give me a very good idea of a quality of live that’s very different from ours, in Europe. In many ways, much more precarious. Yet in so many others, much more vibrant and alive.
They immerse me in the shapes and light. And walking so many miles to collect them immersed me in the life of residents of very different neighbourhoods.
Naturally, upon our return, I made the rookie mistake of showing my parents the photographs. And, as I’m sure many of you can relate to, was immediately greeted by a request for a blog post from Wrinkly Senior
This is that post. And I hope the photographs can convey what seduced me on the spot. I didn’t try to create exotic works of art but to find the angles and times of day that made the design and textures come to life in a way that can inspire me in the future.
And I’m probably not supposed to mention this, but all those photographs were taken on a OnePlus phone. The zoom camera is excellent, even at night and doesn’t require me to fuss for hours on a computer like you know who. I have things to do … And it probably costs as much as dad’s neck strap. I have to print large portfolios (A1 or more) and the quality of the photographs is always very good. Phones are here to stay ! Get used to it
None of our projects will be built. None are “for real”. Although I do hope I am able to work in Habana one day, none of this is actual rebuilding.
But those photographs are re-building my little corner of Habana for the future. In case all of this gets “fixed” to foreign standards, made “better” in ways few of the locals can relate to or care about. This is how it was in 2020.
Since my visit, I see architecture a little bit differently. Creating a building is much more about creating a way of life than simple columns. Traveling is the best way to find new ideas and improve in the field.
I hope you are all alright! Stay safe!
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