Tue, 26 Jan 2021

by Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese descendant Ramon Ramirez Li, 36, is a member of Nivel 4 Studio, a Havana-based architecture startup seeking to transform the interior and urban designs in the country's capital amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As metropolitan areas continue to be the epicenters of coronavirus transmission on the island, Cuban architects are looking for practical solutions to the new challenges posed by sanitary emergency plans.

Li, who graduated from Technological University of Havana, said the pandemic has reshaped the way people use private and public spaces, which subsequently is transforming modern architecture.

"Design must be flexible enough to adapt to new scenarios imposed by pandemics, natural disasters, or any other circumstances," he told Xinhua.

Along with three other young Cuban entrepreneurs, Li founded Nivel 4 Studio in 2008 and ever since has participated in more than 130 design projects.

Li's workmate Pedro Daniel Rodriguez, 37, said that architects are now paying more attention to interior design and ventilation of rooms due to the COVID-19 crisis.

"We have seen how important balconies are for people sheltering in place during lockdowns," he said. "Works of architecture are like paintings in a museum."

Nivel 4 Studio is also promoting the use of locally produced construction materials to help the Cuban economy substitute imports amid the tightening of the U.S. embargo against the island.

"We try to use local materials like concrete blocks and bricks made in Cuba as well as regular stones found in different areas," said 38-year-old Hector Sullivan, another member of the startup.

At present, young architects are exploring state-of-the-art design tendencies to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the environment.

They used solid waste in the production of eco-friendly concrete blocks to transform a house garden in Havana's Nuevo Vedado district into Aldaba Restaurant, one of the best eateries citywide.

Waitress Yahil Duarte told Xinhua many customers prefer to dine at elegantly decorated restaurants with comfortable green areas.

"Everybody commends us for the uniqueness of the work done by architects here. It is really impressive," she said.

Private entrepreneurship has gained ground in the Caribbean nation over the past decade in the context of economic and social transformation. Currently, there are about 30 architecture startups across the island, more than half of which are based in Havana.

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