safeguarding cultural heritage, social and architectural wooden houses in Cuba

Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Culturel, Social et Architectural des Maisons en Bois de Cuba

Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Culturel, Social et Architectural des Maisons en Bois de Cuba

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Project Cuba


“CASAS de MADERA y HABITANTES de CUBA” - PROJECT

As part of emergency post-hurricane rehabilitation work and prevention planning for future hurricanes or natural catastrophes:

1. Risk prevention measures, listing of Cuba's wooden houses in the six most hurricane-sensitive areas:

  • Pinar del Rio, Viñales
  • Havana, Santa Fé, Cosima, Guaynabo
  • Cienfuegos
  • Santiago de Cuba, Cayo Granma
  • Holguín, Banes
  • Matanzas, San Miguel de los Bancos

1.1    Listing will include inhabitants, mainly old-age people living in these wooden houses, built long ago (one of the characteristics of this wooden house heritage, unique in the world, is that most houses are still inhabited and standing in spite of hurricanes). Their present condition and repeated hurricanes make rehabilitation work urgent. Listing will include accurate geographical locations and details of houses and families.

1.2    Description of work to be carried out, with degrees of rehabilitation emergency:

Collapsing risk or possible repair depending on three criteria to be identified with photos or videos by a wood engineering firm, after visit of  each house (outside dimensions of houses will also be provided).

  • Criterion 1: Condition of upper floor if any;
  • Criterion 2: Condition of framework and roof;
  • Criterion 3: Condition of load-bearing walls.


1.3    Implementation:

  • Planned work schedule and costing;
  • Reinforcement, structure fixing, walls, floor(s) and roof;
  • Placing (or replacing, if necessary) missing tiles;
  • Treatment against termites.


  2. Setting up wood framework and roofing workshop school microprojects to train people in each of the six areas, so that repairs can be made by local workers living close to where the needs are.


2.1    Starting a construction site school linked to each workshop school in each area, including:

  • A community workshop school;
  • Carpentry and roofing craftsman trainer;
  • Workshop and computer monitoring equipment;
  • Establishment of a first hurricane prevention emergency work schedule;
  • Setting up wood knowledge training courses, construction site schools and training workshops.


 Return on investment will allow each workshop school to repair or build over 50 houses each year.


AIM: Perform preventive work to reduce natural catastrophe risk factors and protect wooden houses and their poorer inhabitants, especially old-age people, thanks to whom humanity and solidarity values are perpetuated.


 EXAMPLE of a Wooden House:

  • We know its history;
  • Our wood engineering firm produces a report approving its reconstruction;
  • Its architecture is easily identifiable and repeated;
  • Urgency linked to its sustainability, resistance to hurricanes and roof condition.


We chose the first house after meeting Santiago de Cuba's City Historian, when we visited Cayo Granma. Wooden houses—some century-old—are built over the whole islet, a “paradise-like” site located in the bay of Santiago de Cuba, but hell-like for the poorer inhabitants of the place because they take the brunt of hurricanes and sea spray to a maximum degree. The house that called our attention most is built on piles on the seashore; it is partly destroyed but still standing. Its inhabitant family have lived there for three generations (the great-grandmother used to work as a servant for the landowners). Today the great-grandfather remains, with his granddaughter and the great-grandchildren!

Arrival at Cayo GranmaWooden house in Calle 1ra No. 41
arrivée au Cayo Granma

Back part torn away by last hurricaneThe grandfather and a great-grandson!