Venafro Havana

Architectonical Restoration Interchange ‘Havana – Venafro’. July – September 2017.

The aim

This new initiative was devised to enable the partners to have an opportunity to step-back from the demands of production and deadline, exchange knowledge and reflect upon their approaches to working in the architectural restoration of Old Havana, Cuba and the city of Venafro, Italy.

Who’s involved ?

The initiative was devised by Impresa Ing. Antonio Buono with Deirdre MacKenna of Cultural Documents in partnership with the Oficina del Historiador (The Cuban National Council for Culture and Heritage), Havana Cuba.

After the presentation of the project by Antonio Buono and Teresa Buono in Havana in June 2017, Perla Martínez Rosales and Raúl Gortázar travelled from Havana to spend two months exploring professional practice in dialogue with the studio of Ing. Antonio Buono in Venafro.

Perla is a qualified ‘Ingignere’ and Raúl an architect, they have both worked on a wide range of restoration projects in the centre of Old Havana and wished to reflect upon their experiences there in an international context.

An Italian architectural tour

Teresa Buono devised a programme of visits to architectural sites in Molise and to Naples, Rome, Florence and Grosetto. The group identified many similarities in architectural heritage between Venafro and Havana, and considered how city planning and ownership of buildings impact upon communities, and how new processes, materials and technologies have the capacity to compromise the integrity of buildings.

Perla and Raul described how planning procedures in Havana create strong links between cultural institutions and the community at the outset of developments and this led to discussion of the challenges in optimising the re-development of public spaces, (especially main squares) which can stimulate a sense of ownership, belonging and civic pride.

At the ancient Roman Verlascio amphitheatre in Venafro, Raúl and Perla saw how the work by the Ing. Antonio Buono has realised the conservation and stabilising of the structure while bringing it back into use by residents and visitors alike.

Deirdre joined the group and led a series of visits to cultural sites and walks in rural locations which led to discussion of how architecture can carry the stories of the Past with it. Everyone was moved by accounts of the devastation of the Abbey of Montecassino, and the massive task of re-building in the wake of war.

The accounts of sacrifice in the area during WWII were brought to life through the collections and narratives of the Museo Winterline in Venafro; guided by Luciano Bucci, the group learned of the impact of conflict and reflected upon this later in the abandoned villages of Pacitti and Travarecce in Filignano. The group considered the role of architecture in commemorating the lives of its communities and how the construction sector can lead initiatives in partnership with councilors and private land-owners, to preserve these as public memorials.

Cuba-Italia: differences and similarities

The group reflected upon the difference between capitalist and socialist approaches in open markets and noted that although the motivations and mechanisms are different, the actual procedures are strikingly similar. Each model shares the standard procedure of applying for national funding by making a case for support in competition against other regions. The group agreed that if the model were to evolve by factoring in community representation and benefit, then they would immediately create more tangible opportunities for the communities, while producing more integrated restoration projects and ultimately, improved social, cultural and economic sustainability.

New projects might factor-in non-formal education activities for people of all ages which stimulate intergenerational participation and mobilise the community. In turn, this would increase heritage awareness and integrate the issue of preservation into the everyday lives of the community, increasing responsibility for cultural heritage.

On reflection

Both Havana and Venafro are places which have a rich heritage of historical sites, each of which requires constant restoration work. Ideally, this work should be part of a city-wide, socially-integrated programme which optimises the balance of restoration, conservation and everyday use. All companies which undertake restoration work are in a crucial central position between owner and community, and by adopting a socially-sensitive approach, they can be pro-active in optimising collaboration between heritage and everyday use, enabling added value for everyone involved.

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