March 5-12, 2016 | Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad
Our 2016 design retreat took us to Cuba, only a few months after diplomatic relations were restored after a 50-year detente. (In fact, we were in the country just before President Barack Obama’s historic visit on March 21 -22.) The team got the sense that they had taken a time-machine trip back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, surrounded as they were by vintage classic automobiles in pristine running condition. Some architectural treasures had been preserved, but there was much work to do. We were exposed to an intermingling of state-run enterprises like restaurants and the Portages Cigar Factory, as well as family-run businesses. Through it all we found the people to be most welcoming, proud of their history, and optimistic about the next chapter, with more normalized relations with the United States.
Our architectural studies included guided tours with Cuban architect Orestes del Castillo of UNESCO World Heritage Old Havana, and art deco-style buildings of the 1920s and 1930s. We also visited José Rodriguez Fuster's the Fusterlandio studio, the Instituto Superior de Arte, and the Cojimar fishing village where famed author Ernest Hemingway was inspired to write "Old Man of the Sea" from his villa on the Finca Vigia hilltop. The team also traveled to Cienfuegos, where we toured the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Cienfuegos Historical Center with historian and architect Millan Cuetara. The colonial town of Trinidad, another UNESCO World Heritage site, was toured with local architect and restoration specialist Nancy Benitez as our guide. Additionally, the team visited the lookout over the Sugar Mill Valley, designated by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1988.