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Cristina Webb

ARC 505 Thesis Preparation

Crisis City:

Self-Contained Urbanisms:
Tourism in an Isolated Context

Primary Advisor:
Brendan Moran

Secondary Advisor:
Jonathan Lott

Crisis City Primary Faculty:

Julia Czerniak
Anda French
Brian Lonsway
Brendan Moran
Francisco Sanin
The United States’ diplomatic and economic embargo on Cuba since 1963 has uniquely isolated
the island and its people from many of the foreign influences that have infested much of the rest
of the world. There are no McDonald’s, no Starbucks, no Walmart, no modern cars, and
extremely limited access to internet and phones.

Until recently, when it was announced that 500,000 public sector workers were going to be laid
off and restrictions on private business would be eased, private sector jobs were rare and highly
regulated. The only signs and billboards often seen in Cuba are those “bearing Fidel Castro’s
likeness and his most quotable quotations,” but one can imagine that as the private sector
evolves, business signs and advertisements might begin to appear, marking a shift from a facade
of collective work under Castro, to one of more individual interests (Lacy).

In the past few months there has been growing speculation that the United States will allow
Americans to travel to Cuba as tourists. To many, Cuba represents one of the last ‘untouched’
pieces of paradise. The largest island in the leisure region of the Caribbean, Cuba stands as the
last untapped tourist resource for the ready mega-consumers up north.

Many hotel chains already have their plot of land picked out, resort corporations have their
Cuban spa retreat designed, and cruise lines have their routes plotted out. The question is, how
will the country respond to an influx of capital and influence?

Communist China has arguably ‘successfully’ taken advantage of ties with the US, exploiting the
American consumerist need for - essentially - massive production of lots of stuff. How then
should Cuba strategize a relationship with Americans, who desire the commodity of an idealistic
paradise will all imaginable amenities?

MVRDV’s ‘Costa Iberica’ examines a faltering tourism dependent region on the coast of Spain.
The coast’s monocular behavior towards tourism, relying on a cycling influx of tourists as its
‘residents.’ does not provide a sustainable social system that the region can rely on. Sterile,
culturally artificial resorts can not be a sustainable model for development.

While other tropical destinations have given into the consumerist desire, and commoditized
their image and social resources, my contention is that Cuba’s general isolation gives it a unique
opportunity to plan for a better transition into an impending influx of tourists and their
consumer interests. I argue that architecture can help mediate the relationship between the
tourist and the host, much more sustainably, socially and politically, than the current norm of
resort towns and tourist districts.

By investigating current Caribbean conditions of resorts, tourist infrastructures and political

infrastructures (such as embassies), I aim to propose a new tourist-host spacial/infrastructural
typology that can help mediate the divides between the local and outsider.

As part of the Crisis City group, I hope to collaborate and work with others focusing on
different areas of research so my project can be examined more holistically in regards to politics
and economics.
existing tourism

vs. crumbling city infrastructure

Enclaves Support

City Enclaves


Leisure vs Life in Havana



Government Domestic
Embassy Interests
[Political [Communist
Interests] Lifestyle]
Annotated Bibliography

100 Hotels and Resorts: Destinations That Lift the Spirit. Victoria: Images Group Pty, 2008. Print. 

Display and description of “world-class” hotels and resorts around the world. Helpful in

establishing precedent of existing tourist conditions and an alleged desire for specific

atmospheres and amenities.

Baker, Christopher P. Cuba. 4th ed. Berkeley: Avalon Travel, 2006. Print.

This book gives a comprehensive overview of travel in Cuba with a candid guide to specific

destinations, hotels, restaurants, etc as well as insight into current methods Americans can

use to travel to Cuba (legal and illegal). It is helpful in establishing the current view of cuba

from a tourist perspective in relation to other destinations.

Coates, Stephen, and Alex Stetter. Impossible Worlds. Basel: Birkhäuser, for Architecture, 2000.


Gives a theoretical background and perspective of the idea of ‘beach’ and ‘resort’

throughout history and explains the human desire for the exotic and paradise.

Dean, Cornelia. "Conserving Cuba, After the Embargo." The New York Times. 25 Dec. 2007. Web.

19 Sept. 2010. <


This article proposes methods for culturally and environmentally protecting Cuba in ways

that other Caribbean countries have failed to do.

Hibbard, Don, and Augie Salbosa. Designing Paradise: the Allure of the Hawaiian Resort. New York:

Princeton Architectural, 2006. Print.

Will be helpful in being able to see the allure of paradise spatially from the American

perspective and its manifestation on American soil.

Highsmith, Carol M., Ted Landphair, and David Patterson. Embassies of Washington. Washington,

D.C.: Preservation, 1992. Print.

This book gives a background of American embassies throughout the world and

descriptions of the activity that must take place in them. Will be helpful for deciphering the

political relationships within tourism and the roles that embassies have on conveying the

American image.

Lacey, Marc. "Cuba Resets the Revolution." The New York Times. 18 Sept. 2010. Web. 19 Sept.

2010. <


This article describes the current condition of an emerging private sector in Cuba and the

spacial implications it might have on the people.
Loeffler, Jane C. The Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America's Embassies. New York: Princeton

Architectural, 1998. Print.

This book goes more in depth into the history and philosophy behind American embassies

and why they look as they do. It describes the political initiatives involved in building them

and how they are used to convey a message about America.

Maas, Winy, Jennifer Sigler, Mathurin Hardel, Penelope Dean, Paul Ouwerkerk, and Mathijs

Labadie. Costa Iberica. Barcelona: Actar, 1999. Print.

Analyzes an existing condition of a flooding of tourism on the coast of Spain.

Malkin, Elisabeth. "Cuba’s Public-Sector Layoffs Signal Major Shift." The New York Times. 13 Sept.

2010. Web. 19 Sept. 2010. <


Scofidio, R., J. -L. Déotte, T. Keenan, F. Migayrou, L. Tillman, and G.Van Den. Abbeele. Back to the

Front:Tourisms of War. New York: Princeton Architectural, 1994. Print.

Will be helpful for researching the desires of tourism and what intrigues people about
certain places, such as war and politics.

Thompson, Ginger. "U.S. Said to Plan Easing Rules for Travel to Cuba." The New York Times. 16

Aug. 2010. Web. 19 Sept. 2010. <