Idea for Revolution Square in Havana. Project of young architects awarded!

Dobrawa Bies
15 of February '23

A team of young architects consisting of Wiktoria Stępień from Poland and Santiago Landín from Spain redesigned Revolution Square in Havana. Their work, which introduces greenery in place of asphalt and transforms the area into a cultural and social center, responded to The Cuban Square competition and received a Golden Mention!

The international competition organized by Terraviva Competitions was tasked with exploring the potential and redesign of Havana's Plaza de la Revolución. The square is one of the largest public squares in the world, at 72,000 square meters, and is a site of great historical significance. Formerly known as Plaza Cívica, it was the stage for political speeches, mass marches, protests and various events. It features a monument dedicated to intellectual and poet José Martí—a 142-meter pyramid-shaped tower that dominates the plaza with its size, while offering a vantage point at its top. The square, unused most of the time, has become a kind of „public void,” where tourists come only to have their picture taken with the Che Guevara mural in the background, and then return to the beach.

Forum Habanumm, aksonometria

Forum Habanum, axonometry

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

The organizers asked the question—how can the plaza be transformed into a place full of life and social interaction? What kind of intervention could turn the area into a vibrant, accessible and functional area for both locals and international tourists? Participants in the competition were encouraged to rethink the full history and cultural identity of the space by developing innovative and creative concepts.

Forum Habanum project honored!

Submissions from around the world were judged by an international jury consisting of: Andrea Branzi (Italy), Peter Noever (NO/EVER DESIGN STUDIO, Austria), Paloma Herrero E. (STEFANO BOERI Architetti, Cuba), Yu Ting (WUTOPIA LAB, China), Iruma Rodríguez Hernández (City of Amsterdam, Cuba), Francesca Porro (Inside Outside, Netherlands), Teresa Pontini (Technical University of Dresden), Adrian Labaut (ALABAUTH, Cuba).

As we read on the competition's website, all the winning proposals transformed the square's space to suit the human scale, complementing it with elements that allow integration and implementation of different programs. The common denominator of many projects was the use of indigenous vegetation as a design tool, as well as the intention to create a space for cultural and social interaction.

Forum Habanum, plan

Habanum Forum, plan

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

First Prize went to the work Plaza del Pueblo by the team consisting of: Jens Linnet, Kamille Augustinus, Dominika Misterka, Alicia Sima. Second Prize was awarded to the project Choreography of a Revolution by the team: Mahshid Rezaei, Sophie Stockhammer, Michael Strahberger, Ravza Kabaktepe. Third Prize went to Cloudarchitects for its Plaza Civica project. The jury also awarded four Golden Mention awards, among which was the Forum Habanum work by Wiktoria Stępień and Santiago Landían. Ten projects were also awarded with equal honorable mentions.

We are both architects currently working at L35 Architects in Barcelona. After being involved in various projects together, we found that we had a similar vision of architecture and conceptual design and decided to participate in the competition," said Wiktoria and Santiago.

Forum Habanum, nowy projekt placu Forum Habanum, przestrzeń galerii

The authors designed multifunctional spaces

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

The square as a cultural and social center

The authors conducted analyses of the site before starting their design work:

The plaza area is surrounded by cultural facilities and administrative buildings, which form the boundary between the historic center of the city and its outskirts. The large number of roads and their width make it difficult for pedestrians to communicate between the different areas, and the square itself is divided into two isolated parts due to the Paseo Avenue that cuts through it. In addition, the overexposure of asphalt on most of the establishment's surface, along with the climatic conditions, generates an effect that discourages both tourists and residents from spending time there, the authors explain.

Forum Habanum, przekrój

Habanum Forum, cross-section

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

On an urban level, the architects proposed to free up the visual axis that connects the José Martín monument to the Castillo del Príncipe and Salvador Allende Avenue, and in this way connect the existing structures in the neighborhood. Their concept redefines the entire complex as a new cultural and social center that will provide a variety of services for the entire city. The designed capacity is expected to facilitate pedestrian connections to residential neighborhoods and will blur the old boundary, which the authors say will be symbolically recreated as a gateway leading to Havana's historic center.

Forum Habanum, podział na przestrzenie

Habanum Forum, dividing into spaces

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

square like a Roman forum

The designed new paths and greenery axes converge in the Forum Habanum, the project's epicenter and meeting place.

In ancient times, the Roman forum was the center of commerce, culture and politics, a public space where citizens performed various activities and had a social life. It was here that the most important elements of the city were located: the temple, basilica, comitia, treasury, curia, archive and many other facilities. Our proposed intervention, inspired by the foundation of the Roman forum, seeks to create a new urban center for Cubans that combines functions adapted to the contemporary socio-cultural context: art, sports, recreation, education and commerce, the architects explain.

 Na placu wprowadzono różne, wielofunkcyjne przestrzenie  Forum Habanum, wnętrze przestrzeni do kontemplacji

A multifunctional space and a space for contemplation

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

inclusive, multifunctional spaces

The authors respected the historic character of Plaza de la Revolución by preserving spaces reserved for public events, but they also added new facilities and functions. They decided to bury Paseo Avenue, in order to free up space and integrate it with the rest of the plaza and introduce shaded areas.

Aksonometria przestrzeni „El Nexo”

Axonometry of the „El Nexo” space

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

Always keeping in mind the relationship with the surroundings, our proposed arrangement of elements avoids interrupting the defined visual axis and frames it, while creating new vantage points from which to view the monuments to Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. The addition of dynamic urban elements and specific landmarks, add dynamism to the entire establishment, the designers explain.

Aksonometria przestrzeni „El Galeria”

Axonometry of the „El Galeria” space.

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

The new multifunctional, inclusive spaces are diverse, and each seeks to support local activity. These spaces can not only function independently, but also complement the offerings of neighboring cultural facilities, offering residents new places to celebrate community life.

Projekt nowego placu w Hawanie Forum Habanum, przestrzeń do przedstawień

„El Nexo” and "El Faro" spaces.

© Wiktoria Stępień, Santiago Landín

climate control strategy

Due to Havana's distinctive weather, the architects developed a climate control strategy to combat the urban heat island effect. This is helped by the placement of a series of covered public pavilions to provide shade, and the replacement of asphalt pavements with greenery and vegetation to help cool the atmosphere. Terraces have also been introduced to break up the one-dimensionality and allow people to hide from direct sunlight.

Read also about the Centreje project in Buenos Aires by Przemyslaw Ruta, which received an honorable mention in the Silos Buenos Aires competition.

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