Shaking Up Havana’s Malecon Competition

Location: Havana, Cuba
Program: Boardwalk, Sea Defense Wall

At the initial signs of the first incoming storm of the Caribbean’s hurricane season, the residents of the surrounding blocks and neighborhoods of Havana’s Malecon will come together for a unique event and celebration. Teams of 10 habaneros each, representing a city block, building address or social club located in the close vicinity, will participate in the collective turning of a boardwalk into sea walls.

The people of Havana have a history of turning one thing into another due to economic scarcity, epitomized in the phrase “resolver” meaning to solve, addressing necessity through practical ingenuity. The turning of a seafront boardwalk into a flood prevention mechanism fits into this strategy that is very representative of the city’s culture and innovation.
At the sound of a signal, 8 kilometers of floating piers will rise in unison and turn into a protective wall that undulates along the Malecon coastline. This unique performance will not only signal the changing character of the weather and seasons, but also represent the determination and union of residents to preserve and safeguard their city.

The basic unit module of the project is low-tech in character. A timber floating pier divided into 3 engaged segments, each ranging from 10 to 16 meters. They are painted in the vibrant characteristic colors of the city, and when unfolded become a continuous active boardwalk, full of a variety of spaces ranging from restaurant areas, urban pools to fishing docks.

When the floating piers are raised through ropes by the individual teams from the Malecon sidewalk, the 3 segments fold into an A frame wall capable of countering strong waves and winds. This raising and lowering process, requiring the citizen’s collective participation, can be repeated several times a year when the city is threaten by the weather.

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