23°08′09.4″N 82°21′30.0″W

title and map munnar

As part of the 4th Caribbean Winter School, organized by Prof. hc. Dipl.-Ing. Herbert Bühler from the MSA | Münster School of Architecture as well as Prof. Dr. Arq. Ruben Bancroft from the CUJAE school in Havana, I got to take part in designing a new typology and in a way a prototype for the changing district of Old Havana. Political and social influences are greatly starting to have an impact on the every-day life of the Cubans, thus also having a great influence on the architecture and the way it is going to change and develop over the next years. In small groups that were deliberately mixed in culture, language, and ethnic to form vibrant and dynamic teams that could draw from various experiences and backgrounds, we brainstormed ideas to settle in a new housing project into a an up-coming and thriving neighborhood that is at this point still rather under-developed and one of the poorer districts of Havana.

One of the main challenges was to understand and incorporate the culture as well as the completely different lifestyle of the Cubans. This also made it interesting and very rewarding. Besides the outcome of the design its self, the process of getting to that point and exchanging thoughts and ideas was one of the best parts of this four-week workshop.

The graphics and plan material below further illustrate and showcase the project focusing on the design and structure of the housing complex.

[MAIN PERSPECTIVE] pedestrian street view


The site is exposed and open towards two streets. Both of these sides are closed with an area designated for part of the building´s volume that later on also represents the complex towards the street. The chosen depth of nine meters allows enough light and enough space for adequate rooms.


With regards to room depths and lighting, the rest of the site is divided into semi-private, private, and building-volume space. The building is set off from the outer site bounderies to allow minimal backyard space.


Grey area defines the basic building volume. One of the most important aspects to incorporate in the design was proper air ventilation and circulation at all times and in every apartment. Therfore, setting the volume back from the site´s edges also allows for light and air penetration form all possible sides.


As a sense of safety and security, it was of the Cubans wish to limit access to the site. Therefore, only two entries are planned at the inner sides of both street facades. The main inner open space is the primary circulation space. From here, four seperate access points are distributed according to the aparment locations.


In order to create a sense of three-dimensional, attractive, and dynamic space within the open semi-private-public space, three courtyards are formed between the circulation system. The areas are sunken individually to create different heights and quality spaces. Two are green areas, while one is a water basin.


The main outline of the building space is extruded to allow for four levels. This will fit in with the adjacent buildings and is adequate considering the amount of apartments we wish to create.


While some mass is cut out to allow for the best possible air circulation, some additional mass is added within the courtyard space. This step also provides shadow above the circulation and access system.


The roof enables another floor which provides additional space for the inhabitants. It will generate a roofscape that provides areas for urban farming, water-saving, -heating, and -distributing, as well as more open space that is shared by the inhabitants of the housing complex.

[ELEVATION] san rafael pedestrian street
[FLOOR PLAN] first floor / ground level
[FLOOR PLAN] second floor
combination of adjacent apartments for multi-generation living
[APARTMENT DETAIL] example of the combination of adjacent apartments and their structures to enable multi-generation living
munnar tea plantation construction details

While the streets facades and elevations are closed by the building´s volume filling the gap of the previous vacant site, it was important to us to allow for visual filtration in subtle ways to enliven the streetscape and create a dialog between the flowing open outdoor spaces. Incorporated benches within the exterior wall facing the streets, as well as wall openings and terraces on the upper levels give back spaces of interaction and the much desired communication. However, the complex can not be accessed by anyone besides the inhabitants themselves to maximize protection and privacy of the apartments.

Once inside the compound, the rhythm of the circulation space and the sunken courtyards define the atmosphere in the semi-public-private area. This is a cummunal space for all of the inhabitants where different gathering areas and various qualities of spaces create as much interaction as desired. The three courtyards are not all created the same, as to not become irrelevant by monotony. As a result, one courtyard is a bigger, more open area, while another creates an arena-like event space with multiple steps create sitting areas for social gatherings. Yet another one is filled with a water basin, which further enhances a comfortable climate, as the winds carry the cooler water and temperature through the entire site.

This topography that is created on the ground floor is mimicked within the scape of the roof system. A grid builds the base of the roof, where individual containers or tubs can be plugged in. As urban farming is an important topic in this neighborhood, this is an area for the residents to grow and farm their food as they please. Most importantly, however, is the system of water collection which is also set up on the roof. An elaborate system of biological pools take care of the entire building´s water supply.


[LONGITUDINAL SECTION] showing the courtyards and the structure of the roof