by Neometro

Cienfuegos, Cuba – A Precedent in Urban Planning

Open Musings - by Open Journal
  • Cienfuegos - Theo Molenaar

As our cities begin to burst at the seams and apartment living is embraced in more and more of the worlds urban centers, the struggle to facilitate their development is becoming seriously hard won. This hugely relevant problem prompts the question, how can we approach residential planning to ensure a consistent future for new development?

With no defined answer as yet, any solutions surely lie in the way we collectively approach urban planning and how those involved collaborate. How our governments and civil authorities work alongside developers, architects, and the demands of the metro population is detrimental to the ongoing availability of land for new real estate that adequately houses a cities growing  urban population and how we approach its design and development. So what cities demonstrate successful urban planning? Why? How?

I first heard about Cienfuegos, Cuba a couple of years ago when I happened upon some striking images of its beautiful urban centre. Like Melbourne, Cienfuegos has a multicultural history which is portrayed in the various architectural styles of its municipal buildings and residential development.  Clusters of Neoclassical architecture dating from the early 1800’s until well into the 20th Century have been maintained and consistently built within a grid that forms the basic planning of the city.

With numerous cities across the globe adopting the grid concept that radiates outwards – with the commercial district at the center alongside high density living with lower density housing located on the outer perimeter –  many economic, spatial and hygenic and domestic considerations are met. Cienfuegos, in maintaining this concept so steadfastly as other moving parts of the urban sprawl morph to fit within the cemented urban concept, seems to have maintained an equilibrium of sorts.

In 2005, UNESCO inscribed the Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos on the World Heritage List, citing Cienfuegos as “the best extant example of early 19th century Spanish Enlightenment implementation in urban planning.”

The downtown area contains six buildings from 1819–50, 327 buildings from 1851–1900, and 1188 buildings from the 20th century. There is no other place in the Caribbean which contains such a remarkable cluster of Neoclassical structures.

Historic centre of Cienfuegos by Yulka Lucia

Cienfuegos is the first, and an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble representing the new ideas of modernity, hygiene and order in urban planning as developed in Latin America from the 19th century. Perhaps it is this accolade and the subsequent civic pride to maintain it that essentially bands together the disciplines involved in future planning. Despite growing populations, social and economic changes and cultural shifts, the unified efforts of a cities planners is quite possibly where we should begin.

Words by Tiffany Jade.


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