Track 2: Sustainability and Conservation of Built Heritage in the Americas
Two churches in the Caribbean, separated by centuries and vast cultural divides, continue to serve their communities at the heart of their respective cities. One is in desperate need of maintenance and preservation, the other has found a mechanism to finance its restoration. Recent academic and professional engagements reveal divergent strategies for adaptation.
The Church of Santa Lucia (1702) is located in the dense urban core of Santiago de Cuba, the former capital of Cuba, which happens to be on a seismic fault line which extends eastward to Haiti. The structure exhibits features of a local vernacular developed to resist a variety of natural hazards. It has composite rubble walls with an embedded wood frame structure carrying Mudejar roof. A UM preservation studio set out to conduct a HABS documentation of the site before projecting strategies for preservation.
It is a building situated on a compact footprint with very little space for support services. Because of the Church’s continued and increasing role in providing social services, it would benefit from engaging neighboring historic structures to accommodate new programs while preserving sensitive historical fabric. While challenges include highly limited sources for building material, the local labor force has gained tremendous experience after restoring the nearby Cathedral, which could be leveraged to not only preserve the building, but also the building culture.
The Christ Fellowship Church (formerly Central Baptist Church) was built in the 1920’s during the Miami building boom that ushered in the first batch of steel frame buildings among the wood frame houses of the young city. Only steps from Biscayne Bay, the building would see its parish community dwindle with the city’s expansion to the suburbs. However, recent dramatic increases in urban living bring increased property values. The financing of restoration, adaptation, and planned maintenance is facilitated by selling adjacent properties that are ripe for development, transferring development rights, and now even using a new mechanism to transfer development density. A new parish community will coalesce among thousands of new residential units and will benefit from work which currently includes reinforcing the steel roof structure, restoring original steel windows, and repairing precast architectural elements of its Neoclassical façades.
Facilitating the process are the combination of traditional and new documentation techniques that we’ve taken from the classroom to the workplace, as well as working with committed contractors and excellent conservators.