You are on page 1of 8

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

All at Once: Approach to City's Historian Office's Leadership on Rehabilitation Program for Old Havana
Ihosvany de Oca Morales

Introduction Old Havana has always been that beautiful place, frequently described as the wide port-town, the blended-town, a city opened to diverse influences, officiously crafting herself with creativity, grabbing pieces from different cultures, transculturizing and even being herself. This eclectic but singular town was unexpectedly caught in a slothful period starting in the 1960´s, and did not face the urban renewal common to the rest of Latin American cities, exposed to generations of heedless investors and severe aggressive environmental conditions. Urban development and construction activities in Havana were suddenly interrupted, as a new government launched social, healthcare and educational improvement programs all over the country, demanding huge amounts of money to warrant their fulfillment. It must be admitted that at the time, a common attitude toward the past was assumed even within the cultural sphere, when all symbols recalling what was frequently viewed as an ancient age were undervalued. San Cristóbal de La Habana is a town with its own history. Diego Velázquez founded this last of the First Seven Villages of Cuba during his expedition through the island in the XVI century. La Habana, probably evoking the name of a local Indian Chief, Habaguanex, was first located on the southern coast of the island, and relocated in 1519 to its permanent place in the north, near the Port of Carenas. it was not the capital city originally; not until the Spanish verified the advantages of having a much more enclosed and secure port on the north coast that could serve as point of departure for a marine route. Plus facing the Atlantic Ocean, it was the right place to accommodate a whole fleet before it headed back to Spain. A growing society flourished there. Its wealth, derived from trade more than from a plantation economy, created favorable conditions for progressive urban renovation and the rise of a local architecture that fulfilled various primitive functions of defense, life and trade. The whole town developed, contained by a fabric of narrow streets, and balanced on a polycentric structure of public squares or plazas that served as the centers for military, trading, civic and religious functions. Through its history, the old city kept a near relationship with delight and amusement, as suggested by the omnipresence of sea, always offering a nearby shoreline with the potential for relaxation. From the very beginning the locals set out to create an infrastructure for urban diversion that would include

UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

places where to go, and serve to exhibit the latest styles. Indeed, architecture was called upon to please each of society s new urban fashions, creating great promenades by the sea like Paseo de Paula in the XVIIIth century, and the monumental Malecón (Washington Avenue) in the XIX. Another example with an interesting history is the Paseo del Prado, occupying the site of the old city walls, and transformed at the beginning of the XX century into a space for ceremonial or cultural use. Such traditions proved their permanence even through the difficult times of the War of Independence, which ended in 1898 with the first American intervention. Since then, the city has changed much. The presence of the American governors, regretful from a political standpoint, made possible the technical renovation of the service infrastructure; and the economic and trade stimulus quickly provided a secure and confident environment for both local and foreign investors. Against a bumpy background with political resonance, the Cuban economy created wealth capable of generating tremendous growth and real change in the face of the Old Town. Suffice it to say that almost 70% of the buildings were replaced, remodeled or constructed during the period, most of them with a newer Republican physiognomy: the Eclectic Style. The rest remained under the clear and progressive threat of their advancing deterioration. The evolution of Havana as the focus of the tourism industry grew outward from the Old City downtown to Centro Habana during at the first decades of the XX century, and then on to the Vedado area especially during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Nevertheless, some of the hotels most favored by American tourists remained active, especially the Ambos Mundos Ernest Hemingway s quarters for afew years or the Santa Isabel, founded in 1867 by American businessman Louis Lay. Americans were always a major source that fed the enjoyment industry until 1959. This created a specific market, whose interest was not focussed on the values of the historic urban site. After the Revolution tourism decreased significantly for a number of reasons, but mainly the interruption of the main stream coming from United States. During the 1960s and 70s, the attention of preservation institutions was concerned mainly with the preservation of major landmarks. Later, during the 1980s, a broader montage of museum programs was started. In a way, the Old Town was being preserved, but it started to loose its vital essence. Even some traditional inhabitants moved to other areas freeing up space for a massive internal immigration process. Many public spaces, fortresses, monuments and buildings stood as witness to history and for the enchantment of the Old City. This enchantment first captivated the fertile will of a few cultured, sensible people, later spread to the local population, and eventually drew international concern about its preservation. This last episode led to the inscription of Old Havana in UNESCO s World Heritage List in 1982. The work of few local and daring preservationists must be first mentioned: historians, architects and workers who were concerned about the preservation of most the valuable beacons; plus those who worked in documenting the city s historic center for the nomination to the World Heritage List. All efforts up to now have kept a close relationship to the gradual growth of the tourist industry whose profits now represent a valuable financial support of a large institutional framework emblematic of its own success in spite of the scarce resources.

UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

Today both the national and international communities generally acclaim the success of the Rehabilitation Program for Old Havana. For sure, over the last ten years. The increase ion tourism has helped support a comprehensive preservation policy that is considered a utopia by many, almost a miracle by most, and a titanic one by the ones who are working ot make it come true. The year 2001 ended with US$70 million in income for the Office of the Historian of the City, the flourishing institution that bears the leading role. Old Havana can now be preceivced as an active cultural landscape, populated not only by tourists and their resulting infrastructure, but by a powerful working and living community. The Model On a recent visit to Old Havana, World Heritage Director Francesco Bandarin described the local preservation model as almost a unique example, for its complexity, its commitment to preserving the social structure of the community; an advanced cultural phenomenon with an economic response; something considered close to heresy a few years ago, today more than a necessity. Two important views mentioned in his statement suggest certain originality in the way this approach to management combines culture and reliability. One is the presence of cultural interests that implies the consideration of the social impact; the other is the economic involvement of the preservation model, not as a result but as the very core of the process dynamics. A bit of history can serve to illustrate the real significance and particularities of the Rehabilitation Program in Old Havana. Usually all analyses of the program begin with the inscription in the World Heritage List in 1982. But this was not the first tangible preservation effort in Old Havana; it was merely a turning point. In fact, it was the foreseeable outcome of the intense involvement by local preservationists who finally became aware of the danger of loosing their own heritage, and one that unfolded as belonging to all humanity. We cannot pinpoint exactly the moment when it all started, but we can refer to two political events as proof of an emerging public and civic involvement and commitment to conservation. First, the appointment of Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring as Havana s City Historian, in July 1925; and later on, the founding of the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana in 1938 as a municipal autonomous department. After Triumph of the Revolution in 1959, the new government - now with centralized economic powers continued to recognize the Historian s Office as the lead agency with sufficient administrative resources to fulfill its mission, and it assisted it financially from the very beginning. Upon the death of Emilio Roig in 1964, the Council of State nominated Eusebio Leal Spengler to assume charge of the Historian s Office. By supporting a strong civic movement that spread the commitment to save the threatened heritage, Mr Leal Spengler became a notable personality, which in turn, led to public recognition of the need for preservation. In the period after inclusion in the World Heritage List and up to 1990, more advancement in conservation took place. But then, the economic crisis associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Socialism in Eastern Europe, prompted a decision by the central government at the time unable to

UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

assume the costs of preservation - to cede full powers to the Office of the City Historian to manage the restoration program by developing its own financial resources. The institution was no longer a subsidized agency directly linked to the Council of State. The point of departure was an initial budget (US$20 million) funded by UNESCO and approved by the central government and the UNESCO aid. Law Decree 143 of 1993 gave autonomy to the Office of the Historian, henceforth responsible for its own sustainability and economic obligations. The work of the Historian Office was re-structured along a new set of responsibilities concerning the mission of the Office, such as: § Management of housing, owned by both the State and by individuals, § A new framework for regulating investment, § Ability to contract with local and foreign individuals or enterprises, § Creation and improvement of its own revenue stream, § And most important, adoption and implementation of a restoration master plan for the urban territory. The beginning strategy to achieve this relied on revitalizing principal urban centers, usually near a plaza, for tourist activities including hotels, small restaurants and other services each of the areas. From there, revitalization advanced by restoring buildings and services along corridors connecting the main center areas that had been previously restored. The process replicated the traditional process of urbanization by establishing the main squares or Plazas and then developing a street network connecting them into a living fabric. And now we are working to advance towards what we call the Deep City. Different instruments were used to draft and implement the overall plans and their particular programs. Simply stated, a central economic structure with different revenue sources was established: all individuals working independently on their own pay regular taxes, as do businesses housed inside the established boundaries. Additionally, some donors contribute generously to the city s restoration. But the major income comes from tourism activities and its ancillary industries. Two main companies generate profits that are then managed by the Office of the Historian: § Habaguanex. S.A Whose mission is basically to manage hotels, restaurants, bars, stores and § Fenix S.A. Dedicated to the rental of apartment and office buildings and running a regular cab service. To date, tourism has brought about the restoration of at least 16 buildings into hotels with a total of 438 rooms now in operation. The presence of American tourists has been significant, especially during the past two years, after the United States Government approval of cultural and educational exchanges with Cuba. The general revenue has increased approximately eight-fold, reaching US$70 million last year. If such rhythm can be sustained, the Office of the Historian will be dealing with an extended financial framework. It also will face a tremendous challenge in continuing to manage responsibly in the near

UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

future, keeping what is felt to be a good basic structure, but one that needs to diversify its action and concentrate its ruling authority. The Projects Small hostels and regular hotel rehabilitation projects have been a regular staple and the preferred approach of our Architecture Department. Almost every attempt displays a quality design with an equally responsible rehabilitation approach. It is usual to leave samples and witnesses of ancient traditional crafts technologies inside the old palaces and houses now turned into elegant and comfortable hotels. That the conservation approach preserves cultural authenticity is evident in all our projects, from the larger hotels like Ambos Mundo, Florida and Valencia to the more modest facilities like the Hostal de los Frailes or those attached to specific institutions devoted to preservation like El Marino Hostel only 6 rooms for visiting faculty and students in one of the cloisters of the former Convent of Santa Clara, now the National Center for Rehabilitation, Conservation and Museology (CENCREM). But it is not enough to have exclusive hotels or restaurants; tourism demands a whole infrastructure for a broad range of purposes. It demands a living city with a human foundation, from which an ethical substance spreads subtly as a scent or a perfume. Our objective at present is to recapture space in specific projects, which represents a broader vision for our future interventions. The intent is to mix various uses within restored buildings, combining people from different income levels to foster greater social interaction, public activities and to focus on the values and interests of the community. This entails the development of a network of complementary services for the locals, and which includes diverse categories of small restaurants, cafes, bars, and also boutiques and shops, some of them exclusively designed. Some examples can help us to reach a wider understanding: > The project for the rehabilitation of a small building on the corner of Obrapía and Oficios streets may be the opportunity to put our ideas to test. Formerly a typical XIX century three-story house with ground-level commercial, later turned into tenements housing, the project will rescue the traditional structure with a newer scheme adapted to current circumstances. Inclusion of a Faconable Boutique on the ground floor will basically reproduce the original urban use, as the two upper levels will contain five new apartments for locals. On the rooftop, a studio room will be added for rental by a local or a foreign artist. > The Rehabilitation of the Palace of the Marques de Arcos in the Cathedral Plaza is a project that expands the same concept. This monumental house was one of the most valuable palaces from the XVIII century, later the site of Arts & Literary Lyceum of Havana, a prestigious cultural institution in the 1800 s. Finally it was converted to tenement housing. The Plan is to create a multi-use structure that will generate an urban link between the Cathedral Plaza and Mercaderes Street, one of the key connecting paths in town. The original main accesses to the buildings from both sides will be reopened to the public, exposing the central courtyard as an inner plaza containing archeological evidence and contemporary artworks along its peripheral galleries. The ground floor will be occupied by two small
UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

and exclusive boutiques for antiques and souvenirs facing the MercaderesStreet; a professional Photo Studio will be installed on an entrance from the Cathedral Square. The spaces enclosing the rear courtyard will be used for a liquor store and a wine library where people can read about the traditions of winery, and also to learn how to taste and buy wines. The remaining open space facing the Cathedral will be reconstructed for the St. Eloy Jewelers´s Society, which will include a workshop and a store that will be accessible from the Plaza. In the next level, the space originally used to house slaves will be turned into a conference center with 3 auditoriums for 50 people each, a great Hall and other general services. The upper floor will be rehabilitated into two sections. The main section will embrace all the rooms around the courtyard gallery: the great hall, a dining room, the library, and two luxurious rooms will be furnishes with with original XVIII century pieces and offered for rent to the upper brackets market. When it is vacat, it will be open to the public as a museum. The remainder section will consist of 4 other rooms of a lesser standard with a kitchen replicating the original one, and a small breakfast room to be shared with the first section. > Our most interesting project -now under construction- is the renovation of the former Helicopter Terminal Building constructed in 1958 over the ruins of San Juan de Letrán, later Santo Domingo Convent and Church, and site of the first Cuban University from 1728 to1738. The project articulates and summarizes our linking principle. Although the basic plan is to keep using the space for office use, there is an added element that addresses culture and community aspects. This program will take advantage of the profits derived from rental and other services to provide facilities for tourists in a multifunctional complex where both locals and foreigners may interact. An added purpose is to create a space for public memory by including character-defining features from the original convent such as the Main Courtyard, Bell Tower and the Main Hall from the former Convent and University. A museum will house a collection of original documents and objects belonging to the old convent and university. In addition, 4 small digitally equipped movie houses accessible from the street, there will also be a rooftop Gym Club, both serving traditional needs of the community. This intervention is planned with a certain polemic language that treats the past with a contemporary attitude. Specifically elements from the antique convent, like the original bell tower and the façade on Mercaderes Street have been questioned, arguing instead for a more contemporary interpretation. The potential for finding archaeological evidence outside the building opens a spectacular possibility to create a new plaza on the back side of the Palace of the Captain Generals. The social impact of this intervention has already largely been achieved through the polemic discussion about the architectural approach, to the donation of artifacts, documents and valuable objects belonging to the original convent, and the expectations of the community about the new uses they will probably relish.

UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

Risk and Threats The loss of the historic cities is an everyday risk. For many years it was believed that commercial activities should not mix directly with the preservation process. At first, they were seen as a potential danger, but now we face the paradox that tourism makes it possible to save at least the most valuable section of the Old Town. However, the future of our rightful cultural heritage including its urban & architectural elements can not be determined exclusively on the basis of its current market value. Tourism grows progressively, and therein lies a potential risk that becomes clearer as big businesses expands gradually in historic settings. Fast changes are occurring not only inside our society, but all over the world. Globalization, if taken on the wrong way, can lead to an attitude of dislike for own inheritance; but taken the right way, we know that it leads to progress. Some of these general risks that we face, and that are common to other historic cities include: § Displacement of local inhabitants and elimination of housing units due to commercial development § Negative impact of uncontrolled tourism § Uncontrolled increase of car traffic and subsequent conflicts § Folklorist and theatrical tendencies in rehabilitation projects, and pseudo cultural activities In our case, although the Office of the Historian of the City adheres seriously to the scheduled program of interventions as identified in the Master Plan, some local threats still linger. On the one side, there is a potential strain with agencies and entities not connected to preservation and who still hold property inside the historic area. While such institutions and their representatives are publicly committed to heritage protection, they sometimes pressure against some projects in order to avoid changes that may lead to the loss of their space or building facilities. On the other hand, there are § An excessively broad investment structure whose many departments assume redundant functions within a single agency, and where some decisions can only be made at the highest level; § Contradictory positions for certain projects from the various approval commissions; § And unstable conditions due to the actual financial crisis that can endanger the most sensitive portions of the built and intangible heritage. These conflicts are revealed in the contrast between the romantic character of some interventions that in trying to reinvent the past approach mimicry in the urban stage, with more recent attempts to introduce a more contemporary architectural language. However, the greatest peril of all would be the loss in the continuity of the social component of the rehabilitation plan, which run deep in keeping the city alive not so much for tourists as for herself. Though it reduces the autonomy to act in particular circumstances, centralization reinforces effective control and providess a solid foundation for development in such immense scale and so complicated in purpose. Conclusion Tourism represents is not only an economic support for the achievement of our plans and strategies; it also brings vitality and retrieves a tradition that was interrupted for years. The dynamism that it has attained has recovered the Old City s vital essence that had almost been lost. Havana now reveals a

UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES

PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

hopeful model for local progress. The control our Office exercises is needed in order to guarantee the integrity of the City; whereas an unfettered attitude would lead to conflict. Increased revenue alone could create a severe threat not only against built heritage but also against the intangible substance of the cultural landscape. The credibility and prestige of the Office of the Historian as lead institution for the Rehabilitation, and most particularly its social involvement, are its most valuable defenses. The obstacles ahead are still countless. The demand to fund preservation increases constantly, while the people to be included in the social welfare programs also tends to widen. The programs, in turn, become more complex as new projects are successfully completed. Our institutional structures will need to manage a bigger budget, its actions most be more in tune with the urban plan regulations, and specific projects must become more diverse and assume a certain independence. Auxiliary Bishop Carlos Manuel de Céspedes recently said in a speech about the Havana he knew from his childhood, this is a place where everything comes together all at once, evoking perhaps the tropical cosmopolitanism that is natural to the city s inhabitants and their open spirituality in the face of innumerable circumstances that seem to converge at once. He might not be wrong to convene to what is and how much represents Old Havana in his own particular experience. Moreover, in our peculiar strive, his vision seems to merge with ours. We might simply suggest adopting a tangible objective, a mission for our fertile garden of projects and small utopias: to preserve this enchanted place.

UNITED STATES NATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MONUMENTS AND SITES COMITÉ NATIONAL DES ETATS UNIS DU CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL DES MONUMENTS ET DES SITES