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[Re]presenting Tarará

Research Open House 2020

Ashley Simone
School of Architecture, Undergraduate Architecture
Seed Grantee 2019-2020

[Re]presenting Tarará is a research project that began with the intention of reconstructing the architectural genealogy of Tarará, a small community in Habana del Este, located nineteen km east of central Havana. The project, represented here in photographs that later will be adjoined by text, developed from interviews and site visits that have uncovered details regarding the history, transformation, and contemporary condition of the residential enclave, which was built during the 1940s and 50s for upper-middle-class Cubans and later appropriated by the regime of Fidel Castro before falling into disrepair.

Between the 1970s and the early-2000s, Castro modified Tarará, directing building projects to accommodate a variety of social, political, and philanthropic programs. Schools, hospitals, cafeterias, restaurants, pools, and other large-scale structures capable of providing for recreation and entertainment activities, meant for sizable national and international populations were realized. These alterations forced dramatic change to the existing typological composition, which was spread across less than one square mile, and exacerbated the anomalous character of the the original architecture comprising single-family homes, built in a variety of styles that signal the eclectic character of mid-century Cuban modernism.

Using architecture as a lens and photography as media, [Re]presenting Tarará registers the confluence of disparate architectural typologies, and the passage of time, in a series of photographs that convey the present-day surrealistic quality of Tarará and seek to capture the experience of being in situ. The primary objective of the images is to represent the sublime beauty of the heterotopic condition borne from the historical social, political, and economic narrative of Havana. Secondarily, they register the urban planning challenges that Cuba faces as it looks to a new era for its built environment that is being driven by designers operating in a semi-free market where private, “free-radical” architects exist alongside those serving the State.