Julio César Pérez: “The city must be dreamed, designed and conceived for the future”
The Cuban architect and city planner on Havana’s future, his latest exhibition, and architecture in Cuba
On December 16, Cuban architect and urban planner Julio César Pérez (b. San Antonio, 1957) opened an exhibition of architecture and planning at the Eduardo Abela Provincial Gallery in the town of San Antonio de los Baños. Pérez, who graduated from Havana’s School of Architecture in 1982, has taught and lectured at Harvard University, the Boston Architectural Center, and the University of Toronto. He is the author of Inside Cuba (Taschen, 2006), and The Island: Visions of Cuba (Editorial Samper, 2009).
In Part 1 of this two-part interview with Cuban Art News, Pérez discusses the highlights of his current exhibition, details of his ten-point approach to planning for Havana’s growth and development, and why all architects need to start out by designing houses.
Master Plan for the Port and East Havana Section “Habanamar”
Exhibitions on architecture and urbanism are not common in Cuba. What encouraged you to present a decade of projects?
I really don´t remember any collective exhibitions on architecture, except those done by the then-young college graduates of the 1980s—myself among them—in 1987 (at the Development Center for the Visual Arts, Plaza Vieja) and 1991 (at La Cabaña).
My last solo exhibition took place in 2002 at the School of Design at Harvard University. There, I presented a selection of 20 works and projects carried out between 1989 and 1999. Previously, with architects Milvia Céspedes and Esteban Martínez, I did an exhibition in San Antonio de los Baños during the 6th Havana Biennial in 1997. In all cases, the intention was to keep architecture alive as a calling, and to project a vision of this profession that continues the tradition and the savoir faire that has characterized its practice in our country during the past four centuries.
Now, this need motivated me again. It is also useful to analyze a period of work, to confront ideas and approaches, and above all, to show that architecture remains one of the fine arts, if it is approached with a rigorous artistic perspective.
Your exhibition covers a broad variety of topics: personal residences, cityscapes, the renovation of historic buildings, urban planning. Do they correspond to a wide range of interests in architecture?