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Competition: Havana Malecon

An open international ideas contest has been launched to rethink Havana’s deteriorating Malecon sea defences (Deadline: 11 September)

Open to both student and professional creatives, the competition seeks ambitious proposals to breathe new life into the iconic 8km-long promenade which was constructed between 1901 and 1959 to protect the Cuban capital from floods but is no longer fit for purpose.

The Shaking Up Havana’s Malecon call for concepts aims to generate new solutions to restore the waterfront barrier which plays a major role in Havana’s cultural and recreational activity. Proposals will be expected to boost sea defences while also encouraging social uses and wider regeneration of the historic city.

Havana Malecon

Havana Malecon

Source: Image by Eleven Magazine

Havana Malecon

According to the brief: ‘Today, the Malecon is in desperate need of some TLC. Its iconic status is just a thin facade that does little to hide the fact that this city is packed with potential which is going to waste. It is a sad reminder of past glories when Havana used to be the pride and pearl of the Caribbean.

‘What we need is a Malecon revival. In this competition, we want to start a new Cuban Revolution. Only this time, we are using creativity to bring about some much needed urban change to Havana’s complex urban and social history. With three key concepts in mind – being protection, engagement and identity – we ask you: How can architecture and design pave the way for a rebirth of the Malecon?’

Located on the northwest coast of Cuba, Havana is the country’s capital city and largest settlement with 2.1 million inhabitants. The Malecon sea defences were constructed in the early twentieth century during a period of American administration of the island and completed in 1959 shortly before the Cuban Revolution engulfed the city.

Stretching from the Havana Harbour to the Vedado neighbourhood, the 8km-long structure was constructed as a barrier against seasonal flooding but is now in a deteriorating condition and does little to protect the capital.

Havana Malecon

Havana Malecon

Source: Image by Eleven Magazine

Havana Malecon

The Malecon also features a waterfront promenade which has become a major recreational and cultural centre for Havana, featuring a range of social and small-scale economic activities from fishing to picnics.

The latest competition, organised by Eleven, seeks visionary ideas to regenerate the popular attraction which is lined by towering hotels and decaying houses. Proposals will be expected to protect the city while also boosting cultural activities and regeneration.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 11am on 11 September.

Fee

Standard registration from 11 June to 31 August: £90
Late registration from 1 September to 11 September: £120

Contact details

Email: info@eleven-magazine.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Morrison’s Island case study: Q&A with Francis Keane and Henry Harker

The founders of Francis Keane Architects and HH+ discuss lessons learned designing a competition-winning scheme to enhance proposed flood defences for Cork, Ireland

How did your conceptual project propose new flood defences for Cork which would enhance the city’s cultural waterfront?

The competition initiative arose out of opposition to a government lead flood prevention scheme for Cork. The government scheme involves large tracts of historic inner-city Cork compromised or demolished to make way for concrete walls and pumping chambers. Our design forms part of an alternative proposal which moves flood prevention measures outside the city. This both preserves the ancient stone quays and brings the riverside back to the forefront of life in this charismatic maritime city. The net cultural gain will be felt all along the competition site, and we hope our ideas can provide the catalyst for further enhanced use of the waterfrontage throughout Cork.

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

What methods did you use to bring your initial ideas through to a final presentation?

The competition benefitted from a good brief, which we referred back constantly. Producing a written strategy early in the process meant that we adhered to our initial convictions. The entry did not include a model component, so we needed to focus on our visuals. We began setting up our views early and evolved on an iterative basis over a number of weeks. This element was intended to draw the jury towards our presentation. The technical component demanded a section to show how our flood prevention would work. We wanted to avoid including a dry drawing in our presentation and maintain a sense of excitement, so we sprung this drawing in 3D. Our site plans and fly-over views tell the overall story of our proposal and how it is woven into the city on a big scale.

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

What advice would you have to contest participants on rethinking Havana’s iconic Malecon flood defences?

We gained a huge variety of valuable knowledge and understanding of the site and the cultural institutions linked to the river by visiting the city, although we appreciate this won’t be possible for everyone with a competition based in Cuba! Our starting point for the design process was a thorough consideration of the detailed competition brief and the wider flood defence issues, and we believe this was fundamental to our design being considered as a suitable entry for further consideration by the jury. Further to this, we found that an appreciation of all of the heritage, political and practical issues that were important to the residents of the site — and the city of Cork as a whole — were extremely important as a formulating a successful design submission.

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

Morrison’s Island by Francis Keane Architects and HH+

Q&A with Eloise Carr

The editor at competition-organiser Eleven discusses her ambitions for the contest

Eloise Carr

Eloise Carr

Eloise Carr

Why are you holding an international competition to rethink Havana’s Malecon flood defences?

Shaking Up Havana’s Malecon was inspired by a trip Eleven recently took to Cuba. We saw first‐hand the difficulties and disrepair of the sea wall but also witnessed the importance of the Malecon as a cultural gathering place for the locals. Havana is such a vibrant, positive and friendly city full of potential and an international competition would be a fantastic way of engaging the creative communities in this important topic. Challenges are the perfect way to showcase a full spectrum of proactive responses with a whole host of different ideas, styles and outcomes, whilst at the same time allowing participants to build upon their personal portfolio and expose their creative potential to the world.

What is your vision for the new Malecon? (What facilities or aesthetics might it provide?

We are interested in visions and proposes that can capitalise on the rich culture present in Havana while at the same time propelling it into the 21st century and defining new horizons for the city and its people through new public spaces.

How big is the contest site and what are the potential constraints?

The Malecon is a coastal road which runs east to west for approximately 8km (5 miles) along Havana’s northern seafront and linking through some of the most important neighbourhoods of the city. Participants have the opportunity to engage with the whole stretch of road or part of it and if they want even define a vision which can spread into the city. We are leaving the challenge as open as possible, defined by context rather than site boundaries, to make the contest inclusive to anyone that has an idea to share.

Havana Malecon

Havana Malecon

Source: Image by Eleven Magazine

Havana Malecon

How important will architectural innovation and quality be to the end result?

Very important, particularly as this competition will require participants to come up with solutions to a multitude of problems (some of which can be seen as opposing such as how to create a link between seafront and city whilst at the same time creating a barrier for tidal surges) and integrate them into a unified vision. On top of this, they are being asked to work within the rich architectural context of Havana which requires a particular sensitivity due to its historical layering.

Are sustainable issues an important part of the brief?

Yes, for sure. I think that today sustainability must be part of any design. This competition is, at one level, about responding to the threats of climate change. If you believe in climate change being the catalyst for more natural disasters today, and if you believe that human impact is responsible in some way for this climatic shift, then designing in a sustainable way must become the norm in everything we do.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

All architects and designers are welcome to apply, from students and young professionals to emerging practices and large‐scale offices. Eleven was born as a platform to give a voice to the whole creative community, whether they are just starting out or have years of practice experience, we feel everyone’s ideas and creativity is of equal valued and needs to be showcased alongside each other and an Eleven challenge is the prefect arena to make this happen, because we level the playing field allowing for raw talent to emerge based on the quality of ideas and design whilst at the same time we offer our winners enviable awards that extend beyond the prize money you can win and includes great media publicity and a real opportunity to get discovered and kickstart a successful career.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We have a lot of exciting challenges still to come this year on a whole variety of topics, ranging from realistic to conceptual themes. Our next competition will stay around the theme of water but instead of a project looking at how land and people can be defended from the elements, we will be focusing on how our waters can be protected from the damage we as humans are creating with a heavy focus on plastics in our oceans.

Are there any other culturally‐ambitious flood defence projects you have been impressed by?

There is a lot of interesting projects being created but for us the BIG U flood defence system for Manhattan by BIG Architects is one of the best examples we have seen of how soft and hard infrastructures can be merged seamlessly together adding value to the city through public space whilst at the same time guaranteeing its protection for the future.