Successes and failures of participation-in-design: Cases from Old Havana, Cuba

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Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba faced a crisis that forced it to change its housing approach. Self-help building programs began to supplant the construction of mass standardized housing estates. The Community Architect Program was developed to provide design advice to self-help builders, and it expanded exponentially within a decade. By the year 2000, all municipalities across Cuba had their own Community Architect Office. While the approach of the Community Architect Program has been hailed a breakthrough in the fields of planning and architecture, the particular case of Old Havana suggests that several obstacles prevent residents from benefiting from its services. The author identifies the strengths and limitations of the approach by looking at two home renovation projects in Old Havana and the perceptions of low-income residents on the work done by community architects. This research indicates that participatory design methods should be complemented by community-based initiatives that address other aspects of the housing development process, such as access to materials, construction, and construction management.




Valladares, A. (2017). Successes and failures of participation-in-design: Cases from Old Havana, Cuba. Frontiers of Architectural Research, 6(3), 401–411.

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