Design and Culture in Cuba

The times they are a-changin’. With President Obama’s December 2014 announcement of renewing relations with Cuba and with the reopening of the U.S. embassy after 54 years, a new era has dawned on the Caribbean island. This small country that played a major role in the Cold War is a shell of its former glory. Everywhere are reminders of its former connections with the U.S. and later with the Soviet Union. Today’s post-Fidel Cuba is a country that wants to rebuild and reconnect with the outside world. In this program we will explore the history and culture of the changing Cuba. Activities will highlight Havana’s, as well as Trinidad and Santa Clara’s, uniqueness and character. In Miami we will discover the cultural influence of the Cuban exile community in South Florida. Participants will research how our perceived ideas of Cuba, developed through media (news, books, films, TV, tourism advertising, and propaganda), compare with the reality of place. We will study architecture, design and culture through city tours, museum visits, and adventures with locals in both Cuba and Miami.

Havana, Cuba
Intoxicatingly colorful, deeply intriguing, Cuba is a place like no other. The culture of Cuba is a complex mixture of different, often contrasting, factors and influences. Cuba is a meeting point of European, African, Chinese, and continental North American cultures. Since 1959, the Cuban Revolution has also greatly affected Cuban culture, down to the most basic aspects of daily life. Cuba’s capitol and largest city, Havana, is central in any discussion of the island. Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, today’s Havana has three distinct areas: Old Havava, Vedado, and the city suburbs. Each area has its own distinct style of architecture and urban feel.  

Trinidad and Santa Clara, Cuba
Located on Cuba’s southern coast, southeast of Havana and near the Escambray Mountains, Trinidad is an open-air museum of colonial architecture and city planning. In 1988 this small city was reconized as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. Santa Clara, the third largest city in Cuba, is the site of the final urban battle of the Cuban Revolution (1958). Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara led the rebel forces as they derailed and stopped the government’s troop trains just outside the city. Today at the Parque del Tren Blindado, the Catapiller bulldozer used in the battle is memorialized. The remains of Che are housed in Santa Clara’s mausoleum and revolutionary monument dedicated in his honor.

Miami, Florida
Nicknamed the ‘Capital of Latin America’, Miami is an American city with a Spanish-speaking majority. 35% of its population is of Cuban origin. Since the early 1960s the Cuban exile community has greatly influenced its art, culture, and politics. The 1980s TV show, ‘Miami Vice’, has been credited with the urban renewal of South Beach’s Art Deco district and the increase in Miami Beach’s ‘coolness’ factor. Recently Miami has seen major projects constructed by the world’s most famous architects and designers. The city is also known for its museums and galleries of Contemporary Art.

Academic Information:
Required course:
ADS 532 Design and Culture in Cuba (3 credit hours)
Optional course: ADS 533 Study Abroad Documentation (3 credit hours)
During the fall semester, KU students will be expected to attend presentations and discussions in order to be acquainted the history and culture of Cuba. Students will be given a variety of ‘research’ assignments to prepare prior to travel. Assigned readings and videos to watch will also be included in this prep work.
Course Descriptions

ADS 532 Design and Culture in Cuba, is a studio course in which students will observe, take note and document the architecture, design, art, and culture of Cuba. Prior to departure each student will choose several subjects to research and observe while abroad. Subjects can include anything that is part of everyday life in both cities. Students will document their subjects by collecting images, making sketches and writing observations. A book and exhibition featuring each students’ collections will be produced to document this experience.
ADS 533 Study Abroad Documentation: This course includes relevant assigned research topics to be completed during the Spring Semester after travel initiates. Documentation of the travel experience itself will satisfy the rest of the requirements for credit. In a photographic and literary journal of the trip, students will keep notes, reflections and visual information for evaluation by the instructors. Mandatory attendance is required at all scheduled visits during the program.
ADS 532 fulfills 3 credits of core requirements for Visual Communications majors, and studio credits for other majors and Schools. ADS 533 fulfills the Study Abroad requirement for Visual Communication majors, and other majors and Schools.

Participants will stay in double to quad occupancy rooms in bed and breakfast inns or hotels in Cuba and a hostel in Miami Beach.

Open to all undergraduate or graduate degree-seeking students from any accredited U.S. college or university. Priority will be given to KU design and architectures students. Minimum 2.5 GPA required (exceptions considered after submission of a petition).

Sample Itinerary:
Depart Kansas City for Miami: Day 1
Depart Miami for Havana: Day 3
Depart Santa Clara for Miami: Day 12
Depart Miami for Kansas City: Day 14

Miami Beach, Days 1-3
Participants will visit The Wolfsonian-FIU (Design Museum), 1111 Lincoln Road and the Pérez Art Museum (both designed by Herzog & de Meuron). Participants will also walk Ocean Drive and visit South Point Beach.
Havana, Cuba, Days 3-8
While in Cuba, participants will explore historic sites, and see architecture (Colonial, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern), participate in cultural activities as well as connect with Cuban designers and students. Participants will explore La Habana Vieja (old Havana), visit the Museo de la Revolución, National Museum of Fine Arts, Museo Napoleonico and Fábrica de Arte Cubano (art center). Participants will also tour mid-century modern architecture sites in Vedado and Miramar and visit Plaza de la Revolución and Monumento a José Martí. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to visit Ernest Hemingway’s house and the fishing village that inspired “The Old Man and the Sea”.
Trinidad and Santa Clara, Cuba, Days 8-12
Participants will visit the Plaza Mayor and its surrounding Spanish Colonial architecture in Trinidad and see the Puente de Bacunayagua, Cuba’s highest bridge as well as relax on the beach at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) In Santa Clara, participants will visit Che’s Mausoleum and Museum in Santa Clara and walk around the Revolution monument at Parque del Tren Blindado.

Miami and Miami Beach, Days 12-14
Participants will visit the Wynwood Gallery District, Rubell Family Collection (Art Museum), the Miami Design District, Little Havana as well as tour Marlins Park baseball stadium (designed by Populous).