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Preserving Cuba's Urban Quality

As U.S.-Cuba relations evolve with a new presidential administration, author Richard Louv argues that officials should be careful about relying on commerce to save the country's decaying urban areas without preserving them.
January 12, 2009, 10am PST | Nate Berg
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"Havana's beauty and spirit, even in miniature, can move a visitor to tears–as Neal Peirce wrote in his column shortly thereafter."

"Peirce's column endorsed the idea of the United Nations declaring an "international architectural emergency" to save the city's 500 years of architecture, including the globe's largest collection of Spanish colonial-period buildings. All is in peril from heat, salt, humidity, hurricanes and Cuba's poverty–and with melting of barriers, a potential invasion of Big Box Stores."

"New Urbanist architect Andres Duany (a native Cuban who's lived for decades in Miami) has argued that Havana's urban quality exceeds any Latin American city, indeed all U.S. cities south of Washington. Duany means Havana's preserved design, not the decay, which grows worse every year. Centuries old buildings crumble. Roofs cave in and balconies fall, sometimes killing Cuban families."

"Lifting the embargo, if that happens soon, could bring needed capital for the repair and preservation of the best of Havana's architecture. Or it could destroy it."

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Published on Sunday, January 11, 2009 in Citiwire
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