inCUBAting Capitalism: Manuel Glez. Nogueira

Manuel Glez. Nogueira

About: Manuel qualified as an architect in the European University of Madrid (UEM), and gained an MArch from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL in 2015 having being awarded Distinction for both Design and Thesis projects.  

In the profesional aspect, he has previously worked for 'Alvarez-Sala' and 'Andrés Perea Arquitecto' design studios in Spain, specialising in sustainability and Zero Energy design projects. He is currently working in Tigg Coll Architects (TCA), a young innovative practice based in west London. Manuel also has a keen interest in academia and has collaborated as an external tutor with UEM, and FADU Universities as well as being invited as a critict to the Architectural Association (AA) Inter 3 final jury. 

Apart from expressing a big interest in energy production design and sustainability paradigm he has been exploring the implication of economy and politics in architecture in his final thesis, `inCUBAting capitalism´:

inCUBAting Capitalism

Cuban integrity has been suffering from several political and economic inconsistencies. The economic wealth of the island has been rooted in financial dependence on a major country, producing collateral damage in its national identity. 

Although Cuba has been a Communist country since 1959, in May 2014 a sum of $8.7 billion of foreign capital investment was report. Six months later, on 17th December 2014, US President Barack Obama announced the establishment of a closer relationship with the Cuba government and a possibility of lifting the economic embargo. This polemical situation offers the ingredients for a constructive speculation about Havana´s future urban growth. The current controversial evolution of the capital architecture is based on rehabilitation and recreation of fake neo-colonial scenes in order to satisfy tourist expectations. The city is hence losing its architectural meaning and identity by trying to replicate an exaggerated “postcard” image of Havana. However, within the processes of urban planning, a localised zone in Old Havana still seem to be free from the expectations of capital growth. 

This identified area can function as a core for Cuban identity preservation, evolving against the new globalised Havana elsewhere in the city centres. Urban density can be radically increased in this self-manage Cuban community due to the foreign demand for housing rental within the heavy touristic areas. O´Reilly Street, one of the most historic commercial routes, adjoins the south of this protected region, creating a tension edge between the two regimes. Through controlled foreign investment, renewed commercial activities will be re-introduced into the ground level of this street, forcing the pushing up of the displaced living floors above the newly profitable commercial programs, provoking a physical barrier in the vertical axis. 

Ones the Cuban government has increased and repaired its national economy, it will be ready to explore its social values in an effective manner through a new Re-Evolution based on providing a genuinely independence economic system. Local management processes, social education provision, and more sustainable agricultural practices will help to establish a self-sufficient socioeconomic model that contributes to citizens’ living standards.  The architectural aspect in this initiative will start by pushing back from the boundary of the ‘virgin’ core in Old Havana, reconquering the land lost through the spread of foreign trade. This reclaiming of Cuban identity will be reflected in the recovery of street life, with O’Reilly Street as the first location for agro-education platforms between its facades, providing new public spaces and additional food supplies for the neighbourhood. The architectural elements will reinforce the narrative of materializing the social aspect of Cuban identity as well as emphasizing the poetry of the State feeding Cuban new generations.