The entire 16th C town of Trinidad on Cuba’s south coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its heritage designation, as well as the complete—and for a Vancouverite visually relieving—absence of land speculators and developers in Cuba has kept the town very close to its original condition. The area was settled by Spain and built in the Spanish colonial style. The history is quite bloody; the Spanish enslaved the indigenous population and worked them to death, after which slaves were imported to work the sugar cane. After the abolition of slavery oppressive conditions continued right up to the time of Batista’s gruesome regime. So that is part of the economic and political history of this lovely town, though of course it’s not unique in the new world. But I digress. In Trinidad there’s a fair amount of DIY adaptation to the old buildings, as you can see here, yet none of it really changes the historical feel of the town. It’s an interesting town model – back courtyards and roofs are very tightly packed, yet each small, pleasant house also has a certain amount of private space. Houses are mostly one or two storeys and laid out very cleverly. In terms of density of families living together this quasi-medieval town structure seems worth copying. When I came home I realized that the Mau Dan Housing Co-op in my neighbourhood, though it appears outwardly different from Trinidad, has a similar structure, with closely packed low level housing organized to protect personal space and to limit sound transmission from house to house. Low-rise density can work well if the layout is done properly. Photo below is continuous with the photo above.
Neighbouring back courtyards; restored and as yet unrestored. Below, curving staircase in gallery, approx 200 years old.
Above, decorative bars spanning open area above door. Below, renovation permit.