Category Archives: Abstract 500w


Periodical: Japan Architecture+ Urbanism

Thesis: With the limited land space in Japan and cities, reaching their capacities, Japanese architecture should focus on innovating designs that can create an environment that would allow the people to benefit from its agricultural and urban function.

After being isolated from the world during the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868, Japan’s isolation ended. Since then, Japanese architecture and culture was paused in time. The opening of the country forced Japan into a westernization movement. This movement made architecture one of the focuses on Japan. At this point in time, Japan’s sole purpose was to focus on creating newer cities where people could manifest a western lifestyle. Even though the architecture was made to increase the aesthetic of Japan, the new cities were built on land where population was greater in numbers than any other location in the country. Since the end of the of the westernization movement in the early 1900’s, Japanese cities have grown exponentially. Many cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka have developed such that much of the land has been converted into urbanized areas that rely on innovative architecture. With over 127 million people living in the country, people have exhausted the land usage and have no choice but to rely on high-rise buildings. Many modern Japanese architects and landscape architects focus their careers on trying to create sustainable cities, but are still limited by the maximum space they can work with. As limited land space in Japan, reaching their capacities, Japanese architecture should focus on innovating designs that can create an environment that would allow the people to benefit from its agricultural and urban function.

Land in Japan is based on mountainous and volcanic structure, which leaves no alternative for people to build in an environment where easy access is possible. Some of the land has been developed to increase the accommodation of agriculture that allows people to harvest food and crops to provide to the cities. Japan’s agriculture fields extend farther due to the fertile possibility of the land. As a result, the focus on agriculture is prioritize compared to the significance of construction. About 20% of the land is suitable for agriculture and 68% belongs to forestry (Barnes). Many of the mountainsides and the plains are used for farming and terraces for cultivating farmland. The division between agriculture and urban is enforced by government officials to prevent contamination and pollution of the crop fields by cities. This restriction limits what is built and forces the majority of the population in one area.

While the land is developed as farmland, and forestry is protected, the increase of population continues to eradicate many areas around the land. Some lands are razed to accommodate the population and increase the housing for the people. The population in land accounts for 12% in all of Japan. Many cities have become overpopulated, leading to people to live in high-rise complexes. Minimal spacious rooms are designed to accommodate single families that reside in many urban cities. Families in Japan containing three or four members dwell in rooms where the size is compared to those of a single living space in the United States. With many people living in urban areas, the cities tend to depend on the transportation of food and the export of material. As a result, the environment is inflicted with issues caused by the urban living. The infliction towards the surrounding affects how much of the environment can be changed.

As innovative development in cities cease, buildings are stacked or miniaturized to accommodate as much people as possible. High-rise structures in many cities tend to house major commercial spaces, restricting where people can live. Commercial spaces tend to be prioritized over residential. This diminishes the possible locations of residences. High-rise buildings should be designed to allow people to interact and use their surrounding environment. Architecture should involve the agriculture usage as a means of vitalizing the lifestyle of the people. Buildings should adequately place above ground to allow for natural ventilation and sun to reach the crops being grown below. Ideally, the building should be lifted off the ground and placed on columns where the structural support is being helped by the other building. This creates a continuous connection between buildings. In 1966, renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange proposed a concept that would allow the Japanese people to live in high-rise buildings by extending the buildings from a core system that would allow future development of the site (figure A).


Figure A
Figure A

This project was developed to renew the Tsukiji District in Japan that would optimize the usage of houses. By using the concept of the Tsukiji Project, architecture and agriculture can be combined into one system. By using the core system, one can free the landscape to allow the accommodation of crop fields and agricultural usage. As the architecture and structure are raised from the ground, the building does not conflict with surrounding nature, thus allowing the environment to flourish and produce clean, organic and natural atmosphere. The structure allows the people to live in areas where the ground is uneven and construction is not allowed. As a result, the land tends to be cleaner and healthier for people to live in. The use of roads is minimized and the surrounding begins to intertwine as a whole community.

Another Japanese architecture proposed a parallel project that allows individual dwellings to hang from a single megastructure. Kiyonori Kikutake designed the Marine City that utilizes a core system (figure B). While the Marine City resembles the Tsukiji Project, Kikukate’s proposal dedicates two zones of the main core to two housing system. Each system is composed of eight compacted above ground, relieving the landscape of major construction. The use of individual house allows the dwellers to live in their own property while still sharing the main structure. The individualization of the each unit creates a personal space for each family in which allows the member to occupy their own spaces.


Figure B
Figure B

A modern concept can be seen in Singapore. The Interlace designed by Ore Scheeren and OMA allows the connection between dwellers and the landscape (Figure c).This complex takes advantage of every single square footage by stacking the individual units on top of each other, creating a sense of spatial interaction (Arch Daily). The dwelling units double the capability of residence without interfering with the surrounding environment. Due to the small confliction between the building and the surroundings, the complex actualizes the potential increase of the land by amplifying the greenery on the surfaces of the units (Figure D). By following the same example illustrated by Scheeren, cities should be able to accommodate large families with their space needs in their homes. As the architectural dwelling increases, cities are able to expand spaces, yet, relieving the stress in nature. By increasing the land to better the people, architecture inflicts less damage to the surrounding after construction. The landscape creates special areas where people can utilize the land to raise crops.

Figure C
Figure C
Figure D
Figure D

Due to many oppositions in construction and budget, projects like this are likely to be built because of the major impact it has towards the city before construction. Before a city can manifest in redevelopment, cities locations must be razed to accommodate the new development. At times, this causes the city to backlash in the development. The movement of current dwellers in an old residence affects how the city function and many residences are not able to afford the changes in lifestyle. In some cases, the project itself becomes unsatisfactory within the city limits. Some cities become unaware that housing becomes part of local taxation and thus conflicts with living expenses, thus the area becomes gentrified. This diminish the possibility of how many dwellings can actually be built. The structural possibility is at a disadvantage as the size of the core system would be dramatically impossible. The size of the core system would be so large that it would take more than the given land. On the other hand, the raising of crops benefits the dwellers; it lowers the profits of some other consumers. In some areas the growth of crops and food are a source of finance, as such, the cities depend on the commercial use. With the relocation of agriculture fields into personal use, agriculture field can become unusable and neglected.

By using architectural design, it is possible to merge agricultural and urban land. Many architects like Kenzo Tange, Ore Scheeren have innovated the way people and nature interact with one another. Their work manifests the ideals of this unison. While the prevention of pollution is controllable, many Japanese cities have become urbanized to a point that have created many of the major environmental issues seen in Japan. Incorporating hybrid buildings where people are able to grow their own crops would increase the sustainability of the cities in Japan. This increases the availability of land, people uses in their daily life. By relying in cities where sustainability is part of a mechanical system, cities become unsuitable by nature. Thus, by allowing nature to be part of the daily life of the people and its surrounding, cities flourish in better habitats, cleaner cities, and suitable lifestyles. The increase of ruralization in cities helps the rate of ecological and expansion of land for people. This creates better self-sustain cities that would flourish for centuries.


Works Cited

Barnes, Gina L. Origins of the Japanese Islands: The New “Big Picture”. Durham, England, n.d.

Japan, Web. Environmental Issues, Japan. n.d. 25 10 2015.

Johnston, Bruce F. Agricultural Development and Economic Transformation: A Comparative Study of the Japanese Experience. n.d.

Sawada, Shujiro. Agriculture and Economic Growth: Japan’s Experience. Princeton University Press, 1969.

Schalk, Meike. The Architecture of Metabolism. MDPI, Basel, 2014.

Yoshiyasu, Ida, et al. Geography Education in Japan. Springer, 2015.

“The Interlace / OMA” 06 May 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 13 Dec 2015. <>

Architects vs. Interior Designers

Thesis Statement: Interior design should fall under the jurisdiction of the architect and not an interior designer, as they are more qualified in both education and professional experience.

Periodical: ArchDaily

There has always been a conflict between the interior design and architecture professions in how they intersect with one another. Architects continually believe that the interior design of a building falls under their jurisdiction, as they are more qualified in both education and professional experience.

A Bachelor of Architecture Degree from an accredited university takes more time and effort than an Interior Design BFA Degree. Although, “interior design has changed dramatically since the beginning of the 20th century, when it was merely interior decoration,” (Guerin) it doesn’t hold up to the same standards as if one was to pursue a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Interior design is now considered to be, “a discipline of professionals qualified to identify, research and creatively solve problems of the interior environment . . . and protect the health, safety and welfare of the public,” (Guerin, Thompson). However, architecture education has already been focused around research, creative design solutions, and the health and welfare of the public since the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) first introduced a national standard in architectural education in 1912 (NAAB History).

Recommended Academic Plan for the Bachelor of Architecture (BARC
FIT Academic Plan 2

If one were to take a look at an interior design education today, such as one at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and compare it to an accredited school of architecture education, such as the one at The Pennsylvania State University, they would believe the two different disciplines have a relatively similar education background. They both take studio courses, courses in hand drawing and computer skills, environmental system courses, art history courses, a professional practice course and both complete theses. The main difference someone would see is that an architecture student attends school for five years while an interior design student only     attends for four years. Just because the two degrees look fairly similar on paper, doesn’t mean in practicality they are. After an interview with a third year interior design student attending FIT and her friends, and comparing it to my own and fellow classmates’ experiences as third year architecture majors there were major differences. They get handed a pre-designed building already and are told to design the interior spaces of that building, architecture students are told to design whole building and the spatial qualities of the different programs; so here this shows that architecture students have more practice with design strategies than an interior designer does, and they understand how the building itself is suppose to feel as they are the ones from the beginning that have a certain feel/picture in mind for the spaces. However, in our architectural education there is not an emphasis on materials for interior spaces, there is definitely an emphasis on building facades and different treatments regarding that, but in reality architecture students really don’t have a basic concept of interior materials like fabrics, and tiles. In the end though, future architects have more design skills based off the amount of time through school they spend on studio, and how they are able to integrate structural engineering, HVAC, plumbing, and sustainable strategies into a design of a building, thus designing the interior spaces of projects should fall into their realms of the design process.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 3.55.37 PM

After education is complete, and interior design students and architecture students move into the real world, there is still this separation between the two even though they tend to work side by side. Each profession requires its professionals to have a license. According to the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, interior designers need to obtain at least two years of fulltime or part-time work experience, receive a formal interior design education, and pass three parts in the time given to become licensed (NCIDQ Examination). In regards to becoming a licensed architect, one needs to attend a five year NAAB accredited degree program, pass seven exams, and acquire a total of 3,740 hours of interning before becoming fully licensed (“The Basics”). “All 54 U.S. jurisdictions require the completion of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE),” (“The Basics”), while not every state requires an interior designer to become licensed.


As one can see there are more credentials needed to become a licensed architect than there are to become a licensed interior designer. In fact, someone who went to school and obtained a B. Arch degree can apply and take the exam to become a licensed interior designer (NCIDQ Examination). In a professional licensing sense, an architect definitely seems more qualified to be a decision maker; the architect has gone through more schooling, more required internship hours and can even become a licensed interior designer if they wanted to. The fact that after schooling an architect can become a licensed interior designer but an interior designer can’t become a licensed architect shows that interior designers and architects are on two different levels, with the architect being above.

There are some people that believe the architect’s argument that the design of the interior spaces falls under their jurisdiction is invalid. That with today’s more, “increased complexity in the design of interior environments… demand[s] a more focused expertise and skill set,” (Weigand). It is argued that in architectural education with, “its inherent breadth, has failed to provide the focused experience at the interior scale needed to support an evolving high level interior design practice,” (White). Although it may be true, architects don’t learn a whole lot on the interior scale, but architectural education does support and encourage research on interior spaces and the different experiences someone can have while being brought through the building.

Architects are taught from the beginning that both the shell (exterior of the building) and the interior of the building operate as a whole. Architects tell stories through their buildings, and evoke emotions as people move about the interior spaces they create. Through the conceptual and technical training that a person with a B. Arch degree does both in and out of school to achieve a licensure in architecture, compared someone with an Interior Design BFA degree does to achieve their license, don’t compare on an even scale. Ultimately, the design of the interior spaces falls into the hands of the project architect.

Featured Image Info:

Designer: Spector Group Designs




“The Basics.” NCARB. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Guerin, Denise A., Ph.D., and Jo Ann Asher Thompson, Ph.D. “Interior Design                                                Education in the 21st Century: An Educational Transformation.” Journal of Interior Design 30.1 (2004): 1-12. Print.

Guerin, Denise A., Ph.D. “Issues Facing Interior Design Education in the Twenty – First Century.” Journal of Interior Design Education and Research 17.2 (1992): 9-16. Print.

“Interior Design BFA Degree Program.” Fashion Institute of Technology. Fashion Institute of Technology, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

“NAAB History.” NAAB Website: About The NAAB – NAAB History. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

“NCIDQ Examination | Application Information.” NCIDQ Examination. Pronto Legal Notices, 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Weigand, John. “Interior Design and Architecture.” Design Intelligence (2013): n. pag. Design and Architecture – DesignIntelligence. Greenway Communications, 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

White, Allison Carll, Ph.D. “What’s in a Name? Interior Design And/or Interior       Architecture: The Discussion Continues.” Journal of Interior Design 35.1 (2009): 10-17. Print.

Adaptive Reuse of the Cincinnati Subway System

Adaptive Reuse of the Cincinnati Subway System

Proposed Periodical: ArchDaily


Rather than leaving the subway system to go into disrepair, the city of Cincinnati should restore and renovate the abandoned system to create a hub for community activity and interaction through adaptive reuse.


In the early twentieth century, the city of Cincinnati began an upgrade of their electric streetcar system by developing a series of tunnels for a subway transit system beneath the streets of the city. At the time, Cincinnati was one of the seven most populous cities in the US with an economic growth that rivaled New York and Chicago. The new subway system was to be the solution to the growing transit nightmare of the slow and outdated streetcar in a rapidly developing city. Construction was postponed in 1917 when the US entered World War I, which resulted in a temporary abandonment of the project. After the war ended in 1918, costs nearly doubled due to post war inflation, but construction began January 28, 1920. Over the course of seven years, funding ran out for the project with only seven miles of the tunnels dug and none of the tracks laid out. Plans to raise more funding for the project were struck down with the crash of the stock market in 1929. The project underwent a revival in 1939 by the Engineer’s Club of Cincinnati but was ultimately abandoned again due to World War II. Today, the subway system is recognized as the largest abandoned transit tunnel in the United States. Former Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory has said, “ Now more than forty percent of Cincinnatians do not know there is a subway system existing underneath Central Parkway Boulevard.” Rather than leaving the subway system to fall into further disrepair, the city of Cincinnati should restore and renovate the abandoned system to create a hub for community activity and interaction through adaptive reuse.

 One of the greatest benefits of adaptive reuse is cost reduction. The reuse of the subway system would save the city millions of dollars in costs of demolition and re-grading the land that was dug into. In recent years, there have been proposals from city planners to demolish the tunnel system in order to create more residential and retail space in the city, however the city has struck down plans of demolition due to the high cost and time it will take. The structural work is already completed in the tunnels; all that would remain is updating the lighting and ventilation systems to be more sustainable and efficient for a public space of that size. Another benefit of reuse is it creates more sustainable buildings and spaces. Much of the architecture we have today has a finite longevity to its lifetime, only to be demolished and replaced by another building when the previous one could probably have served the new purposes. Transforming the abandoned subway into a hub for community activity would create a new framework for interaction and an opportunity to connect the surrounding neighborhoods that would otherwise remain separated from each other. This is important for the city because it can reduce the crime rate and territorial conflict by creating a more woven integrated community. This hub would also be an ideal space for small local businesses and farmer’s markets to set up and create local economic growth. An additional advantage to the tunnel system being reused is it is such a large space that it can be used for a wide range of temporary venues and activities.

Although there are a number of benefits of the adaptive reuse of older buildings, there are also some setbacks and people who advocate against its practice. One of the most common setbacks include updating the existing systems in the building to comply with present day codes. This particular issue is typically the main reason that many developers decide against adaptive reuse when deciding on a location for their project. They assess the original systems and structural elements installed in the building and determine the cost and time it will take for the updates they will need to make. In the case of the Cincinnati Subway System, the ventilation and lighting systems that were installed in the 1920’s are completely outdated and would need serious updating in order to meet todays standards. The cost of this alone in the several miles of tunnel is enough to turn away any developer from the idea of adaptive reuse.

This issue also segues into the matter of energy efficiency. It is one thing to put new systems into the building, but then comes the question of will they work efficiently with the structure? This becomes a difficult set of criteria to satisfy when it comes to an underground structure like the tunnel system. Lighting would be extremely intensive because of the nonexistence of natural light. However, this can be worked around with the incorporation of skylights or solar panels that would power the lighting. In addition to lighting comes ventilation, due to the intersecting paths of the tunnels, natural cross ventilation cannot be relied on.

One final opposition to practice of adaptive reuse is the client’s desire for something new. Human nature tells us that newer is better. As today’s technology advances, so does the way we look at architecture, and as a result so does the client’s. However, a major point that can be made in defense of adaptive reuse of older buildings is many states and private entities offer grants and federal tax credits that help cover up to twenty percent of the cost of development when it comes to reconditioning older, historic buildings. Most people would rather see something new and modern looking, than the restored beauty of an older building. In regards to historical buildings, Martin Johnson, CEO of Isles, a non profit community development and environmental organization said, “These buildings were designed to last. They were built in such a way that you know they are going to be there tomorrow.” There is something to be appreciated from the resilience of older buildings that use brick and masonry amidst the rapidly growing cityscapes of steel and glass.



Boschmann, E. E. and Gabriel, J. N. (2013), “Urban sustainability and the LEED rating system: case studies on the role of regional characteristics and adaptive reuse in green building in Denver and Boulder, Colorado.” The Geographical Journal, 179: 221–233.

Bullen, Peter A., and Peter E.D. Love. “The Rhetoric of Adaptive Reuse or Reality of Demolition: Views from the Field.” The Rhetoric of Adaptive Reuse or Reality of Demolition: Views from the Field. Elsevier Publishing Co., 9 Apr. 2010. Web. 06 Sept. 2015.

Corral, Andrea. “Repurposing Old Buildings More Satisfying than Knocking them Down.” Las Vegas Business Press 31.29 (2014)ProQuest. Web. 6 Sep. 2015.

Carroon, Jean. “P.7-42; 47-55.” Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Buildings. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010. N. pag. Print.

Kaewket, Dachamont, “Power shift: a catalyst for architectural transformation : rapid transit, Cincinnati” (2015). Masters Theses. Paper 8.

Karen, H. M. (2007). Adaptive reuse: A balancing act. Mercer Business, 83(10), 24-28. Retrieved from

KERSTING, JESSICA. “INTEGRATING PAST AND PRESENT: THE STORY OF A BUILDING THROUGH ADAPTIVE REUSE.” Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Cincinnati, 2006. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 06 Sep 2015.

Rabun, J. Stanely. “Structural Analysis of Historic Buildings.” Google Books. John C. Wiley & Sons, Inc., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2015.

The Cuban Cities of Tomorrow

Their hooks lie expecting their day’s catch. The fishermen hold passively onto their rods, their plastic and their metal, quiet and content. Gazing up at the sky through the beat of their glasses, they’ll allow some moments to pass, moments only gauged by the motion of the sun. ‘Nuevas Versaches, Cabròn?’ asks a fisherman to another, curious as to what he is wearing. ‘No chico…’ he begins to explain, and gives, instead, this smooth sounding name, to which his friend isn’t familiar, a name as smooth sounding as the Spanish language itself.

Behind the fishermen pass a mother and daughter, seemingly late to something, fast-paced in their suits as if they were bound for some meeting in midtown Manhattan. The two fishermen turn around, seeing the two approach the line up ahead, almost wanting to say something odd, until the mother shot them an eye of warning. Before the fishermen could even think of something fairer to say in the rounds of the teenage girl, it became too late, everyone on the line had already boarded. La Guagua Especial would stop a little too close to where the fishermen worked. Every time it passed, some of the fishermen, especially the older ones, would become distracted by its length, by its sleekness, and the especially by that rubber pivot holding the two cars together. Every time the bus would pull away it’d blow a cloud of a gasoline toward the fishermen’s faces— and every time they became brushed by that scent of ethanol, some of them, especially the older, would struggle to stop their smiles.

The mother checks her phone and wallet, putting herself together while she could. The daughter, still faced, just stares out the window, tired, even though her day has barely begun. PLAZA VIEJA the bus ticker shouts. The mother stands up, seemingly having to drag her daughter with her. It’s been a while since they’ve ridden the bus together. In the daughter’s mind are the faint memories of the bus conductor once yelling all the stops. “As old as the city itself,” her mother says to her as they get off the bus, but only in Spanish. The daughter finally looks at her phone, ’11:30’, and starts to hope that the interview might have food. It doesn’t help that she’s passing a strip of restaurants on her way. She can smell the boliche, and the baking bread for sandwiches, the pastry shop, even the smell of the oil from the fast food place. She tries to distract herself, with the geezers playing checkers and dominos on the tables, some of the wives sharing pictures and laughing over at the bench, some teenagers complaining about something over their phones, and some other small children kicking around a soccer ball. It was only 11:30 and the sun was as strong as ever. “Está caliente,” she complains to her mother, who turns around and tell her to stop complaining about the heat and to try and put on a professional attitude. Seeing the building in front of her, the large glass and masonry, she hopes it might be the type of building to have awesome air conditioners, and food! She sees a small bulletin about food as she’s walking in, but it was plastered over by another about some candidate for next month’s elections. She sighs. “Stop it!” the mother stops in her tracks, telling her to get her act together.

They’re up on what must be the 30th floor. Her mother talking to the professional about their future, tapping her shoulder to get her to pay attention, she just can’t. She can see almost all of Havana. She’s grabbed by the view and looks around at the plaza below, at the buildings and blocks around, and sees a closed shop with its sign dangling in front of it. It’s the only thing closed on the block. She gazes in for a moment. It wasn’t a shop, and she realizes that she’s familiar with it. It’s a been a while certainly, but she remembers it. She remembers that time on the line forever while her mother was sick in bed, hoping they wouldn’t run out of medicine. She remembers being there that time with her father, actually, she then tries to not. She then remembers how everything was so different back then, and how she only understands so much of it. She remembers the year when everything changed, how she had to come home early some nights, hearing the loud noises in the distance. She remembers seeing her mother cry on the kitchen floor one night, having to hide her little brother so he wouldn’t get scared. She remembers things changing after that, not really remembering how, just remembers things getting different, more exciting in a way. She understands a lot more now that she’s older, but maybe not as much as she would like. “Josefina!” her mother taps on her one last time, visibly annoyed. She finally pays attention.

Street Culture


Faces of politics will change, and the course of history will continue to present new phases of cultural-economic shape and shadow. From its origin in Spanish colonialism to its current phase in socialist depression, Cuba’s streets and plaza’s have continued to be a point of cultural governance. Whereas in the Baroque, such spaces functioned as social centers due to the simplicity of technology and culture, such spaces function likewise today as moments of social collection, largely due to the perilous state of technology and economic welfare on the island. The lack of cars and sophisticated transportation technology, as was the case in the Baroque, up until the twentieth century, established the social parameter necessary for the common interaction of peoples within the community upon the streetscape. Passing individuals and bystanders, especially those who do so everyday, will clearly engage in more intimate communication than those separated by speed and machinery. Likewise, today, the economic deprivation of the Cuban people coerces them into a similar social parameter. While outdated cars and questionable mass transportation systems exist, their lack of economic integrity renders them near inefficient. However, our today example is only part explained by technological inaccessibility, and more so explained by the lack of recreation we experience in first world countries. The Cuban people, upon their return from their efforts making little over two dollars a day, are not returning to engage in social media, play computer consoles, and engage in similar, indoor, introverted activities, such luxuries, without needing explanation, do not exist. Rather the Cuban people must spend their time a bit more traditionally, engaging one another outside. But this simple logic, Cuba continues to boast one of the most thriving street cultures in the world. Cuban street culture is a testament to the resiliency of a people determined to define “having a good a time” in the few ways that they can.

It is without question that the Cuba’s future industrialization, whenever such a post-socialist society may arise, will undoubtedly challenge the social system that has been with the culture since its roots. It’s up to design to craft the future of Cuba’s urban systems, so that it embraces the fruits of industrialization, without erasing the cultural legacy inherent in its street culture. So, if it is understood that vibrant street life exists under the conditions of Cuba’s poverty, their lack material distractions, and more importantly, their lack of industrialized traffic to threaten its pedestrian domination, how is it that both industrialism and street-communalism can coexist? Well, it’s not impossible according to one late visionary traffic engineer, Hans Monderman. His innovative approach to urban traffic, called ‘shared space’, refutes common logic that industry and pedestrian should be forever segregated. Rather, their integration can have a number of positive cultural, and even positive economic consequences that urban traditionalists might fail to see (Gary). ‘Shared Space’ has the potential to preserve the social capacity of streets and plazas, keeping at bay the easily dominating industrial forces, while yet not completely forcing loss upon them. Hans Monderman’s, ‘Shared Space’ is an innovative urban approach that could provide the base fabric for the Cuban cities of tomorrow.

Recent thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba is a sign of hope for future cultural and economic reforms on the island.
Recent thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba is a sign of hope for future cultural and economic reforms on the island.

It’s hard to give a testimony as to when Cuba’s current political situation may finally turnover. Its socialist stalemate has certainly left the island in a state of deprivation and stagnation. Certain philosophies hold the Revolution’s efforts to be worthy by certain means, though certain objectivities within the system speak for itself. It’s hard to imagine a society where peaceful protest might put you in prison, if not killed. It’s hard to imagine a society where beef and milk are illegal for the public consumption (Alvarez). It’s hard to imagine a society where prostitution has become an acceptable second-job so that a mother can provide basic needs for her children. It’s hard to imagine a society where a waiter at a tourists’ resort can bring home more money in tips within one day, than the most established doctor can make it a month. Yet, it’s all okay, according to certain philosophies. Every child has access to an education—an education so empowering that the craft of any pen is manipulated by the state, to ensure ‘artistic unity’ of course. Yet it’s all okay. Everyone has access to free healthcare and medicine, healthcare and medicine that must becomes even more essential for a society collectively on a modest diet. It’s hard to imagine such a society being so valued that others would experience its replication, unless you’re Venezuelan—but that’s a digression.


It’s hard to give testimony as to when Cuba’s current political situation might end—but it’s easy to give testimony as to what economic events might proceed it. From the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the liberalization of Chinese economic policy under Deng Xiaoping, and similar liberalization in Vietnam, the release of socialist gridlock on a culture produces a massive cultural expansion. The phenomenon is the fundamental argument of capitalism, that a society unfettered by constrictions will produce, within itself, all the goods and service it will need to survive and thrive. Like these precedent societies, Cuba’s economy is dormant under a heavy blanket of totalitarianism, waiting to jump up upon its release. As seen in China and similar societies, Cuba will undergo intensive industrialization, compensating for the years of history for which it has been left in the dark, literally. Such massive industrialization will undoubtedly bring about massive cultural change. How do the daily lives of the Cuban people change in response to new economic opportunities, and how does the structure of its society, the structure of its cities, best respond to its new cultural rhythms?

The footprints of commercialism have taken their footing in the urban fabric of this town in suburban New Jersey.
The footprints of commercialism have taken their footing in the urban fabric of this town in suburban New Jersey.

Without design intervention, Cuba, is doomed a type of Americanization referred to as the ‘Paramus Effect’ (Goldberger, 52). The rise of suburban mall culture in response to the accessibility cars and means of extended travel, created an industrially efficient means of allocating commercial space from residential space, but was socially destructive as it eradicated the potency of the town plaza. No longer does the population care to convene at the the city center for all of their needs, instead, their shopping has been reallocated to all contained mini-city of its own, one completely dedicated to commercialism, and isolated from the neighborhood fabric. The social parameter to engage people on the streetscape no longer exists. Socialization has been exported to the shopping mall, whose overwhelming commercialism transforms the spaces’ social potential into something more modest. Mall’s can host passerby’s and their conversations, and annoying teenagers who hang out at the junction of corridor’s but no space is quite allocated for the purpose of community gathering the way the central plaza has always been. In the Paramus example, referring to the urban condition of a New York City suburb, there is no central gathering space, at all. The town is formed along the axis of two intersecting commercial highways with residential highways being pushed around, segregated by the barrier-effect of such highways. The town’s municipal building is centrally located, in an industrial warehouse neighborhood isolated from the residential street system, and apart of the commercial corridor system, completely surrendering all community intention to the dominance of such commercialism. Hans Monderman’s innovative traffic system is an ideal first approach toward reforming Cuba’s urban systems so that it embraces industrialization, without erasing the remnants of socialism and communalism from its urban fabric, its legendary street life.

The Dutch Hans Monderman's shared space initiative has restored the streetscape for pedestrians, and returned some of Europe's urbanism to it's older, plaza-based past.
The Dutch Hans Monderman’s shared space initiative has restored the streetscape for pedestrians, and returned some of Europe’s urbanism to it’s older, plaza-based past.

It might be first considered counter-intuitive to eliminate the pedestrian-vehicular traffic separation that has come to define our cities up until this point. It might seem against a certain simple logic for people and cars to share their space. However, the evidence from existing examples has vindicating Monderman’s vision, that shared spaces, instead, create a more responsive traffic, coercing both the pedestrian and vehicular elements to engage in dialogue in order to achieve their objectives (Gary). In our status-quo system, pedestrian and vehicle are blinded by the false security of segregated circulation space that they become less attentive to the objectives of the other party, contributing to accidents and fatalities. While fatalities are inevitable, and Modermann may not be suggesting a clean-all absent of its moments of failure, he is suggesting a system that will ultimately contribute a more attentive, alert, and in such way, communicative street culture. By sharing such space, the streets be reopened to the pedestrian, and socially engaging street cultures may presume.


Some might imagine that a shared space would lead to a slow down in travel times for vehicular travel. However, as spaces are shared, and the necessity for traffic lights becomes voided, such system also changes. Rather than having a series of vehicles wait for a minute stopped at a light, vehicles, in communication with the pedestrians around, will instead, continue to move, just at a pace responsive to their environments, a system which largely, given the precedent examples, has actually reduced overall traffic time.


The application of this system in Cuba, or in any other context as Monderman asserts himself, relies largely on supporting, industrial-priority, traffic infrastructures elsewhere in the city. Controlled-access highways and radiating avenues can continue to prioritize industrial traffic and their means in and out of urban cores. It is the urban cores themselves that are deserving of Monderman’s innovative treatment, and it is this very system that can become the urban basis for Cuba’s industrialized cities. Avenues and Boulevard should be zoned from one another, assigning shared spaces, if not pedestrian only spaces, to certain avenues, and industrial-priority to others. The manner in which this is approached is up for further study.

diagram plazas
Stars represent shared space plaza cores, while orange arteries represent industrial-priority avenues.

One approach would encourage the promotion of a city’s neighborhoods into zones each containing their own shared space systems and central plaza systems. They would be divided by the industrial-priority, large avenues that ribbon through the city. Such approach is certainly efficient and logical, yet divisive, separating the city into sub-cities while creating a difficulty for their cross-communication over the dividing avenues, an approach Jane Jacobs notably fought against in 1960’s New York (Flint).

Light green pathways represent boulevards zoned for pedestrian priority. Dark green pathways represent supporting, industrial-priority arteries.
Light green pathways represent boulevards zoned for pedestrian priority. Dark green pathways represent supporting, industrial-priority arteries.

Another, almost inverse of an approach, would be rather to allocate all major Haussmann-like boulevards as pedestrian-priority or shared spaces, and support them with industrial-priority streets along side them. Independent plazas, bearing the pedestrian or street-shared systems, could still exist apart from this network. All industrial traffic would face their own traffic lights, or moments of interruption upon their intersection with pedestrian-priority or shared spaces.

Diagram Networj

Both systems would anticipate the existence of a circumnavigating industrial-priority highway outside the city core, which connects in intersections with regional and national highway systems. Thus, industrial traffic is still free to roam wherever it may need through the city, but now becomes checked into a more balanced street system at the city’s core, in order to preserve the sociability of its spaces.

The future of Cuba, particularly in the short-run, in uncertain. What forces will exist to maintain Cuba’s cultural legacy against the pressures of mass-industrialization? Hans Monderman’s shared space can form a basis in the structure of Cuba’s cities so that pedestrianism is not exchanged for industrialism. The preservation of Cuba’s legacy requires active design to best conduct and orchestrate these spaces throughout its cities. Establishing this, as the foundation of Cuba’s urbanism, and provide the basis for the next conversation, how can a contemporary, free-market Cuba express itself in its architectural structures?

  1. Toth, Gary. “Where the Sidewalk Doesn’t End: What Shared Space Has to Share – Project for Public Spaces.” Project for Public Spaces. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.
  2. Alvarez, Jose. “Overview of Cuba’s Food Rationing System1.” EDIS New Publications RSS. University of Florida, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
  3. Goldberger, Paul. “Bringing Back Havana.” Building up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture. New York: Monacelli, 2009. N. pag. Print.
  4. Flint, Anthony. “Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City” (2009) Random House.




Photograph: Evening at El Malecón, from

Unification of Agriculture and Architecture by Ruralization

Since the ending of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868, Japan was forced into westernization by other countries. This movement made architecture one of the main focus of Japan. At this point in time, Japan’s sole purpose was to focus in creating newer cities were people could manifest a western movement. Even though architecture was made to increase the aesthetic of Japan, the new cities were built in land were population was greater in numbers than any other location in the country. Land in Japan is based in mountainous and volcanic structure which leaves no alternative for people to build in shallow and flat environment where easy access is possible. This restriction limits what is built and forces the majority of the population to one possible location. With over 127 million people living in cities like Tokyo, people have exhausted their land usage and have no choice but to rely in high rise buildings. However, the capacity of high rise buildings are reaching a peak where is not possible to accommodate people living in the city. Due to the land being so limited and precious, the focus of architecture is lessen compare to the value of agriculture. The environment has been increase to accommodate agricultural advantages that allows people to harvest food and crops to provide to the cities which diminishes the possibility of construction. As result, urban cities depend on the transportation of crops from the agriculture fields. Attributable to the volcanic structure in the land, the land is highly fertilize and is filled with nutrients that makes crops very easily to grow and expand. The division between agriculture and urban is reinforced by government officials to prevent contamination and pollution of the crop fields from urban cities. As a result, the urban cities stop developing and buildings are either stacked or miniaturize to accommodate as much people as possible. Many modern Japanese architects focus their career in trying to create sustainable cities but are still limited by the maximum space they are working with. Landscape architects emphasize in in creating many certain location to provide greenery to urban cities. However, this emphasis doesn’t merge the agriculture and urban function where people depend in transported goods. With the limited land space in Japan and urban cities being overpopulated, Japanese architecture should focus in merging land and urban design in order to create a unison environment that would allow the people to benefit from its agricultural function and still live in an urban atmosphere. By using architectural design, it is possible to merge agricultural and urban land. Incorporating hybrid buildings where people are able to grow their own crops would increase the sustainability of the cities in Japan. This increases the availability of land people use in their daily life. Instead of relying in cities where sustainability is part of a mechanical system, the ruralization of cities increases the rate of how cities are really ecological and at the end expands land for people that needed the most creating a better self-sustain cities that would flourish for centuries.

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photography by; Andrea Williams