Most embassies in Havana are exclusive, isolated and intimidating buildings. Is it how diplomacy should be practiced and represented?
Considering the recent political rapprochement between Cuba and the European Union, this scheme proposes a new embassy for the EU in Vedado, Havana, and investigates the role of architecture in the practice of diplomacy. The project introduces a conceptual shift from embassy buildings as fortress, which separate embassy staff from their local context in order to protect them, to embassy buildings as civic infrastructure, designed to diplomatically negotiate between different publics and ideologies.
The proposed EU embassy is organised around a new public space which inscribes the building in the fabric of Havana, challenging the often violently separative edge conditions of embassies. By providing a new access to the ocean, the building contributes to the public infrastructure of the city and seeks to establish a relation of urban diplomacy with its local context. Considering the current acceleration of political changes in Cuba, and the EU’s internal turmoil, the EU embassy in Havana strives to address the versatile relation between the Union and its members, accommodate for programmatic changes within the EU, and facilitate evolving relations between Cuba and EU member States. What should last when and while politics change is opportunities for communication and conflict negotiation, through an architecture of diplomacy.
The project has been informed by several visits to Cuba: a field work to visit embassies and conduct interviews with diplomatic representatives of various States, and a visit in May 2018 to participate in the 00 Art Biennial of Havana to exhibit the proposal for an EU embassy, build an installation on the site of the project, and to participate in a symposium on the political agency of architecture in Cuba.