A Choreography in Old Havana

La Plaza Danzante on the site of the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, Cuba is an architecture for dance performance. Finely tuned to the climate of the Caribbean Island, it is a landscape of wooden decks, elevated wind towers for passive cooling and cast concrete basins for hurricane surge water containment and distribution, all enveloped by a perforated screen. Adjacent to and derived from the courtyard architecture of the 17th century Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, La Plaza Danzante forms a new iteration of the internalised architecture of colonial Spain, courtyard and plaza, where light, air and water were key to dwelling.

Dance is a defining characteristic of Cuban culture. In Havana, the city streets and squares are more than transient spaces or gathering points. Here, tiled floors and cobbled pavements act as a stage for dance as the expression of joy, sensuality and passion through movement and music. 

The thesis proposes a hybrid programme of dance and daily life that interlocks spaces for performance, observation, gathering, training and relaxation. The architecture of Danzante weaves in and out, opens and encloses, excavating deep into the ground and climbing high in elevation. It draws people in from the streets and in turn gives back to the city a constant display in the form of dancing silhouettes projected through a translucent metallic voile. In this way a landscape is formed in which dance is open to all.

Aerial visual of the ateliers' design composition in situ. expand
The Atelier.
Aerial composition representing the proposal in its territorial context. expand
Field Composition. The complex territory of Havana and The Malecón.
The Atelier: Havana.

The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the former metonymic fragment of Spanish colonial rule, now a vast cabinet of finely crafted, yet now redundant, relics of a pre-revolutionary past, casts its shadow upon the Plaza de Armas. Across a mahogany street, itself a relic of past opulent rule, a process of architectural unpacking is enacted to form a sort of chimeric double. The movement of air through the palace unfurls a landscape of performance; acoustic resonance warps and distorts an elevated registration of its enclosure; the gravitational pull of its palatial mass draws in ornate architectural fragments as though pieces on a game board. Walls are stretched, surfaces dragged, tiles smeared, and thresholds are twisted. A new gestural landscape is cast upon the Plaza, undulating with a sense of loose motion and enclosed by a floating screen wall, a memory mirage of the absent king’s home.

Four architectures emerge within this landscape - each discretely engaging with the rich cultural practices of literature, music, dance and craft. Together they converse across a new form of public space. These are architectures that are equally concerned with the careful choreography of external space as they are with the tailored arrangements of internal programme. They cast shadow pools, funnel sea breezes, dampen harsh light and, quietly, prepare for the storm.

Collage visual perspective of architectures colliding. expand
Stories within stories; four architectures colliding.
Collage visual perspective of architectures colliding. expand
Stories within stories; four architectures colliding.
Collage visual perspective of architectures colliding.
Stories within stories; four architectures colliding.
Aerial visual of the ateliers' design composition in situ. expand
Field Composition. The complex territory of Havana and The Malecón.
Main Section expand
(Main Section) Concrete towers; Steel Gantry; Wooden Deck; Aqueducts.
Interior visual perspective. expand
Static Motion. Dancers training in passively cooled spaces beneath the deck.
Interior visual perspective. expand
Static Motion. Dancers training in passively cooled spaces beneath the deck.
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