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International School of Dance, Havana.

Part 2 Project 2000
Molly Worts
Newcastle University, UK
For forty years Cuba was in isolation from the rest of the world, a unique situation that allowed the government to impose socialist values onto a passionate, yet laid-back Caribbean nation. However, in the late 1980s, an economic crisis dictated that Cuba open its doors to foreign tourists and hard currency. Cuba became a country of those who have dollars and those who do not, driving a huge wedge into socialist notions of equality. The project aims to address this divide by bringing host and guest together on an equal basis in the celebration of the country’s richest cultural traditions: music and dance.

The first thing a visitor hears upon arrival in Havana’s airport is the sound emanating from a trio of Cuban musicians. Music and dance form such a strong cultural basis that most Cubans are capable of bursting into spontaneous performances that display unrivalled passion and grace. This resource can be further strengthened as a form of educational tourism, and can act as a perfect channel of communication between people of any age, sex, or nationality. The International School of Dance in Old Havana brings together rehearsal studios, performance spaces, manufacturing workshops for carnival floats and costumes, and living accommodation for both Cubans and tourists. It aims to be the built manifestation of Cuba’s phenomenal culture: a place that exudes movement, energy, exuberance and colour, and above all, inspires people to dance.

Molly Worts

Throughout the final year Molly has excelled in both her written and design work. Her dissertation, 'Reading Cuba', investigated the historical, economic, social and cultural context of the country through a detailed study of the architectural manifestations of the tourist industry. Her design thesis, a dance school in Havana, grew out of this research and is underpinned by her fascination for the country and concern about its future development. From this deep contextual understanding, and an idea that the building would be informed by the vitality of Cuban dance, Molly created a highly original starting point for her design, in which new elements are inserted behind existing facades, creating dramatic and dynamic tensions with the restrained colonial architecture of the city. Throughout the year she demonstrated her elegant handling of ideas as she successfully honed these initial speculations into a refined architectural design, exploring issues such as sustainability and materiality without losing any of the verve of the original proposition.

• Page Hits: 1695         • Entry Date: 09 February 2000         • Last Update: 10 May 2001