Kortajarena, the parrot and the unconscious alternativeness

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It is hard for me to talk about emerging Cuban architecture. The good news is that all of a sudden one can talk about such a thing. And even more serious, that there is a new generation of architects, with or without Portfolio.

1. The Cuban visual art didn’t disappear, it still exists. It nourished from circumstances and created its own speech around them. What had happened in the architectonic creation during Cuban enlightenment decades vanished gradually, almost completely in the years after the triumph of the revolution. With enlightenment decades I mean, of course, the fifties: because there were space and time in which avant-gardism and avant-gardists of all kinds came together; and it was a time when the Cuban architecture catalog became voluptuous. After this, the anemia, the technocracy, the grey in the parrot’s feather.

Then the point is that Art, different from its cousin in question, didn’t get lost in the horizon: it drew it, worked it out and changed it. The ways-to-do between art and architecture are not exactly the same, and they depend on different resources for their execution, that is why it is absurd to ask for alike objects in one field and the other. But architecture lacked of re-invention, of questioning, of theorization. It did not give answers and alternatives. It did not speak, so it faded.

2. Architects have not ever joined battle. 

3. Architects did not reappear now, but the generation notion did. Some years ago, from about 2007, young architects began to gain space in the scene within fatalism and chance. It has emerged the man and the luggage image in the tropics: studies often abridged on a laptop, like Santiago Sierra’s style. Among these studies we can see typologies: some of them are well-positioned, acknowledged and with a certain notion of entrepreneurs, and others in a different state of the matter they emerge or will emerge.

4. The 21st century became ever-changing, slightly clear, and with this, the landscape of Havana like a reflection –subordinated as every capital to the political, social, economic and cultural events–: the city as a specific object in time and space. The lightness of changes caused that a generation, educated on the nineties mainly, emerged like a doer inside the new Havana scene marked by the strivings and neo-strivings, and also defined by a new legal framework. There are commissioners in Havana, and they make bars, restaurants, guesthouses, shops, spas, or they redesign their flats and houses. To do this, they depend entirely on their architect friend who makes possible, or tries to adapt these spaces to the circumstances with the quality given by the expertise and culture they could have. Ironically, the architects that accomplish this do not have any legal support similar to their commissioners’. They move around a grey area. Architectonics studies are not legal yet.

5. Here there is the situation that puts them as creators or alternative entities, without any correlation with the alternativeness of Cuban contemporary art that has a different modus. The young Cuban architect is alternative because of the presence of a client that is not the government; this client asks for a project and uses it, he gives it value; all this takes place even though there is no legal or institutional support for this character (let’s call him underground) who challenges official standards. Architecture takes place as a part time job.

6. Tropical mess, full of grace.

7. There already exists architects, bars and portfolios. But there are no reasons to be so happy yet. We have to, we should be more demanding and our ambitions should be higher, even when we just get out of the void and our status is illogical. However, we have enough, I believe, to place ourselves with a better speech, which appeals more to the ideas and processes than to the rendering and catalog: objects that define the outcomes in most of the solutions.

8. It seems that this generation shares some things. Most of them were cultivated on very hard circumstances in principle; and I speculate a theory, but perhaps it is what often leads them to a very chic finish, or better, a super-chic-finish. This is visible on some house improvements (huge improvements: with chairs by Charles and Ray Eames or Eero Saarinen), where rendering and reality are the same thing and the client is forced to be a part or to look like Jon Kortajarena in a fashion show by Tom Ford.

Another shared feature I have seen eventually in the files is the appearance of projects of a white house that looks like the MoMoy beach minimalism. That is a mystery. It is a kind of group performance or something like that: a small palm tree, a permeable level (if possible made of wood) and the white mixture that prevails. Ready. The Milano Club on 3rd Ave., architectonic improvement on Paula Masa’s house (original work by Max Borges) made by the Space Up project, is not included in this list.

9. The specific sometimes is necessary. It would be good if young Cuban architects evaluate a bit their references and be more committed to the alternative and intelligent speech of Latin American figures: Solano Benítez, Alejandro Aravena, Fernanda Canales, Frida Escobedo, Tatiana Bilbao, Rafael Iglesias, etc. These architects do not belong to a far-off generation. Most of them are amazingly young and are thinking from the specificity of their regions, making contributions and researches that place them on the international circuit.

Our specificity is different, like their alternativeness. But circumstances, at least the economic and social conditions, are quite alike. That is why the Latin American speech is reasonably accurate, and it should be more prevailing than the views developed by the star system. Our answers should be more diverse and eventually get away from the loft from New York. Havana is an old strengthened city with a regained virginity.

10. To consider the architecture from the primitive third world could be favorable. Probably this is why we are alternative almost unconsciously.

 Amed Aroche

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