Cuban Architects Insist They be Allowed to Practice Privately

Don’t young architects deserve to be able to develop their full potential in the country that trained them, the professionals ask themselves. (Geca / Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 August 2021 —  Cuban architects continue to insist before the authorities that they be allowed to practice their profession in the private sector, something that is currently forbidden to them as well as to doctors, journalists and lawyers. A letter, signed by various personalities of the union, reiterates the need for a dialogue with the Government to achieve this objective.

The letter, signed by Universo García, Nelson González, Orlando Inclán and Carlos G. Pleyán, is titled, with a certain pessimism, ¿An impossible dialogue? and details that for almost a year several groups of Cuban architects, engineers and urban planners have addressed letters “to the highest authorities in the country,” so far without success in their demands.

The requests have been addressed to Miguel Díaz-Canel and the ministers of Construction, Labor, Economy and Planning and include the proposal of a dialogue that allows the professionals “to explain the convenience and the need to allow independent architectural work.”

The architects are also interested in knowing the reasons why private practice has been prohibited, despite the need for their services in a country with serious housing problems and where many constructions, carried out in recent years, have been marked by improvisation and lack of rigor.

“The upcoming reorganization and growth of the non-state sector (either as self-employed workers, as a micro, small and medium-sized company or as a cooperative), as well as the increase in local development projects present a growing demand for urban and architectural projects, already assumed by a considerable group of professionals under the protection of related licenses not suitable for it,” they write.

That is why experts insist on the need for “a flexible legal framework that fully responds to all scales of development and that strengthens the cultural vision of architecture and urbanism, and not the merely constructive one, which is the predominant one today, thus containing the growing emigration of professionals.”

The letter summarizes the demands that have come from more than a hundred architects organized fundamentally into three groups: the Section of Architecture and Heritage of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Uneac), the Group of Cuban Studies of Architecture (Geca) and another group around the Pro Arquitectura Initiative.

“The demand has consisted of requesting the authorities to call for a dialogue to debate the current prohibition of the non-state exercise of the architecture and engineering professions, with the aim of knowing their reasons and being able to argue ours,” they detail.

Each group wrote several letters to the authorities detailing their arguments. They note that in recent months the Ministry of Construction, the National Union of Architects and Construction Engineers of Cuba (Unaicc) and Uneac received in their institutions various representatives of the union “to listen to their proposals” but “without offering any answer or opening the dialogue in any case.”

They emphasize that recently the Ministry of Construction said, in a meeting with Geca and the president of the Unaicc, that the solution lies in “the formation of state SMEs*,” which raises many questions. For this reason, almost a year later, the claim of these professionals is the same: “open a dialogue to hear the reasons for the ban and present our proposals.”

The signatories of the text indicate that, in recent days, Miguel Díaz-Canel has participated in “a series of exchanges with different interest groups” such as farmers, economists, university students, women and lawyers to speak “about the complex situation in the country and how face it.”

“Why has it not been encouraged to meet and dialogue with architects and engineers? What are the insurmountable difficulties that arise? Do not cities demand the contribution of all for their recovery and, in particular, of architects and urban planners? Don’t young architects deserve to be able to develop their full potential in the country that trained them? What, then, is the appropriate way to achieve this dialogue and reach a consensual solution?”, the architects wonder.

Since the new provisions were published on February 10, many architects have shown their annoyance on social networks and generated intense controversy.

The National Classifier of Economic Activities defines “architectural consulting activities that include building design and drawing of construction plans, urban planning and landscape architecture” and “engineering design that includes projects of civil, hydraulic and traffic engineering, water management projects, electrical and electronic, mechanical, industrial and systems engineering projects, or the management of projects related to construction.”

Independent studios such as Apropia Estudio, Albor Arquitectos or Ad Urbis have been doing their work for years without explicit permission and with the new regulation they went from ’allegation’ to illegality, a situation that makes them more vulnerable and impedes their professional development.

Oniel Díaz Castellanos, co-founder of the Auge consultancy to advise entrepreneurs, believes that the authorities will persevere in error and insist on keeping Architecture within the prohibited activities.

*Translator’s note: SMEs = small and mid-size enterprises.


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