American architects to take part in the restoration of Old Havana's Historic Centre

Posted: 10-May-16 17:46

The American Institute of Architects has offered its expertise to the Cuban government in order to contribute to the restoration of some of the oldest and most iconic buildings in Havana. The capital of the Caribbean country is considered by UNESCO a World Heritage Site due to its splendid architecture, but the lack of maintenance, the detrimental effect of hurricanes and other natural disasters, among other factors, have damaged its patrimony considerably.

American architects to take part in the restoration of Old Havana's Historic Centre

Collaboration between American and Cuban experts in different projects aimed at preserving Havana´s architectural values are not new, but the presence of 150 architects from the United States in the island a few weeks ago, could mark a turning point in the efforts to accelerate the pace of restoration works.

The experts came to Havana to participate in the Spring Conference of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on Design which featured lectures, exhibitions, city tours and social activities for architects, professors, researchers, specialists, and restorers dedicated to the study, preservation, and promotion of Cuban architecture.

The participation of a big group of American professionals in the event and their announced involvement in the restoration of the city is possible thanks to the recent improvements in diplomatic relations between the Cuban and the U.S. governments, a process that has opened a myriad of opportunities for cultural and academic exchanges between both countries.

More than one-third of Havana´s architectural patrimony has been repaired as part of an ambitious plan led by the Office of the Historian of the City in the last 20 years, but the deprived conditions of most of the eclectic architecture in the area shows that there is still a lot of work to be done in order to preserve the buildings´ historic value.

The governmental negotiations initiated a year ago by the White House and Raul Castro´s administration has sparked the interest of foreign investors eager to intervene in the restoration of Havana, more specifically, to refurbish some of its old buildings in order to turn them into hotels that could potentially embody the vintage charm of the Caribbean tourist destination.

However, before the negotiation process kicked off, other major companies were already working on the renovation of important edifices, such as the neoclassic building known as Manzana de Gomez, located in the heart of Old Havana. This one is currently being converted into a luxurious hotel with boutiques and restaurants in the ground floor and will be run by the prestigious Swiss hotelier Kempinski Hotels.

On the other hand, Starwood will soon become the first American company to operate a hotel in Cuba in nearly 60 years, and it has signed a letter of intent to convert the elegant Hotel Santa Isabel, a colonial timepiece in Old Havana, into a Luxury Collection property.


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