Havana, Cuba


Multi-Purpose Arena



The Plaza Vieja is the erogenous zone of Old Havana, vulnerable and traditional – a historic epiphany which, altered, is a new impetus in Cuban city planning and architecture. Ergo: attack the old Plaza.

The proposal imposes a forum-theater-stadium – a multi-purpose arena – on the deteriorating site. The existing colonial architecture is integrated in the concept but will be substantially erased, leaving only residual images.

The buildings surrounding the plaza are three to six-story structures with enormous interior light wells. The buildings are grouped by the block/grid of Old Havana. The second component of the project is to rupture that grid, to dissolve a portion of it, and to form a new, more freely organized pedestrian street which cuts and removes the old structures, connecting and converting the light wells around the plaza. The former light wells now become public gathering points.

The proposal is an aesthetic act and a social-political act. The new structure intervenes in an old neighborhood, leaving a physical skeleton of the old sociology, but suggesting a new social prospect. Bleachers slice the old buildings, and severed remains must find new purposes. At the north end of the old plaza arcade, an existing building will become a stage with a new proscenium structure bent over the roof of the original building. A new orchestra pit will be cut out from the plaza roof of the underground garage, and positioned just south of the stage. Performances can occur on the stage or anywhere else within the plaza.

The project intends to be historically naïve. It assumes the world can change, can become something it’s not. The project remodels, revises, re-interprets, renews. It doesn’t simply bulldoze. But it’s not afraid to bulldoze. The intervention chases an intricate, not altogether legible relationship between old and new: how to make the old new (Vieja Nueva)? It is an architectural hybrid moving forward and backward simultaneously, making the Vieja Nueva Nueva Vieja.