HAVANA, May 6th (IPS) His wooden house was demolished when he was just 10 years old.
He built another one with the boards, a three-story house, in a tree in the backyard. Today, 34-year-old architect Jorge Luis Veliz is being nominated for a Golden Trezzini award, in the category for the best private residence and apartment building project.
Having graduated from the CUJAE Polytechnic University in Havana in 2010, Veliz admits that he became interested in architecture when he was a young boy, without knowing what exactly this profession was.
The organizers of the Golden Trezzini awards reached out to him, and he is now competing with his Inzeta House project “which is destined to make the most of every potential space and to blend in with its surroundings.”
With “a covered garden serves as a look-out point over the entire meadow that is in front of the house. It is inspired by the shapes of Japanese temples as a sacred space to live and meditate in, in constant dialogue with Nature,” the Cuban architect says.
Meanwhile, the Sivri apartment building, which was also designed in 3D, draws inspiration from the seagull, a powerful animal, as a symbol of freedom and free time.
Living in Artemisa, Veliz works for the Cuban public company “Community Architect Technical Services” (SerTAC) and Project Technical/Professional Services, consulting and design in the agricultural sector (ENPA). His designs have also been brought to life in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.
With professional references such as his fellow countryman Antonio Quintana and international ones such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Zaha Hadid and Richard Meier, it means a lot for Veliz that is work is being recognized on an international stage. “It’s a great honour not just for me, but for Cuban architecture in general and I would like this project to be built in my country,” he points out.
According to Veliz, in many of his rehabilitation and residential and office space projects, “Nature plays a fundamental role, but I think that architecture has to be in sync with it no matter what.”
The young Cuban professional’s nomination for the international award comes after the National Classifier of Economic Activities, published in February, included architecture and engineering among professional, scientific and technical activities that cannot be practised as private ventures.
In this regard, Veliz says “that they are mutilating independent practice as a form of every architect’s individual right. I always give this example, which summarizes a little the judgement: why can a builder practice independently, but not an architect?”
“Cuban architecture today runs the risk of being lost in time without having left a historic mark, as shortages and the national economy mean that very little is being built and, in comparison with independent studios, the quality of state-led companies’ work is far from being of the same level,” he weighed in.
Talking about the housing deficit problem – which is calculated at around 800,000 -, Veliz said that residential spaces are very “difficult [in Cuba and Latin America] and the design process is very important, as it is a space where the individual interacts directly with architecture.”
“I’m in favour of spaces that need to respond to my client’s most personal needs, with its own aesthetic and, also, take the climate into account. If you feel bad at home, nothing beyond its walls abroad is going to work, not in society, not in your work or life,” he explained.
Created in 2018, the Golden Trezzini Awards for Architecture and Design take their name from the Swiss-Italian born Domenico Trezzini (1670-1734), the first architect of Saint Petersburg, author of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Twelve Collegia building and other masterpieces of the Petrine Baroque style.
With the motto “Architecture as art”, this competition seeks to transform architectural, design, restoration and high artistic value exhibition projects into museum pieces, as well as promoting architectural diplomacy, given the fact that connections between architects in different countries do not depend upon international agreements, unlike politics.
Candidates from all over the world take part in these awards for free: promoters and planners, architects and renovators, designers and interior decorators, as well as students from architecture schools and universities.
A jury of experts from 31 countries will announce the winners of the Golden Trezzini Awards on November 15th, during the awards ceremony at the Mikhailovsky Theater, in St. Petersburg.