SANTIAGO DE CUBA.–“Invite me to the inauguration of this beautiful hotel project,” wrote Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, to the directors and specialists of the No.15 Design Enterprise (Emproy-15) of this city, responsible for what will be the most modern installation of its type in the country.
“These words written on the project presentation are the best I’ve heard in my 18 years as an architect,” confessed Josué Pérez Acosta, responsible for the hotel’s attractive design. Due to its magnificence, such a work entails an honorable commitment and a professional challenge for all those involved.
“Since the launch of the proposal in 2015, I began to draw,” Pérez explained, “and I have not stopped enriching the approved design alongside several specialists here and from Havana, because on studying its location at the entrance of the Avenida de los Desfiles, I thought that the hotel should be like a flag that would welcome visitors to the Heroic City of all Cubans.
“In addition, it would have the equestrian sculpture of Major General Antonio Maceo Grajales in the Plaza de la Revolución that bears his name just 500 meters away; closer still a memorial dedicated to Mariana Grajales (in the design phase), and would be expeditiously connected via Patria Avenue with the Santa Ifigenia patrimonial cemetery, where Martí, Fidel, Céspedes and Mariana among other heroes lie.
“That was the motivation for the undulating or floating flag inspired by so many patriotic symbols, which is seen in the two residential towers of 15 and 17 levels, which simulate blue and white stripes, and over the base in red will bring to mind our national flag for whoever looks at them, as an allegory of our free Cuba.”
The suggestive design will be complemented by the beautiful view of the first rays of the sun on Gran Piedra hill, and its setting among the foothills of the distant Sierra Maestra, a natural delight that visitors will be able to enjoy from the bar/lookout and the terraces of the still nameless hotel. With such attributes, it could well be called Hotel Alborada (Daybreak).
MODERNITY AND EFFICIENCY
With a 5 Star Plus rating, the hotel will use advanced construction and technological systems, which will allow it to meet the standards required to transform the second most important city in Cuba into a specialized destination for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and events) tourism.
According to Pérez Acosta, the two aforementioned towers will offer 452 rooms, including two presidential suites on the upper level of both. Standing at 72 meters high, and 92 meters above sea level, the 17-floor tower will be the tallest building in the city.
The hotel will also have a convention center, dance hall, spacious lobby, five restaurants, snack bar, cafeteria, physiotherapeutic gym, swimming pools, and other standard elements of a luxurious facility. The hotel will occupy a plot of 7.28 hectares, previously shared by a tourism transportation base, an urban bus station, and a Cubiza office.
General designer, architect, and engineer César Garrido Rodríguez noted: “Across the world, the rating system of these works includes an exhaustive analysis of the whole process of conception, design, and construction, of the minimal use of natural materials, minimum environmental impact and, once in operation, the use of renewable energy sources.
“Consequently,” he added, “from the technological point of view, a metal structure will predominate due to its performance level, lightness and resistance in a region of high seismic hazard; while a highlight of the construction of the curtain wall façade is the use of special glass panels, that far from raising the apparent air temperature, prevent the penetration of harmful solar rays into the building.”
Pérez Acosta, demonstrating a sample of the panels to be used for the first time in Cuba, explained that they have several layers of glass, creating a thermal break that prevents heat transfer to the interior of the building, while also containing photovoltaic cells, which unlike traditional solar panels are transparent and of the desired tonality.
“The building has to be enclosed with glass,” he reiterated, “and if we do so with these panels, which are more economically feasible and provide clean electric power, even before the first guest arrives, we will be recording income, as preliminary estimates indicate that if also installed in corridors and on the roof, the overall electricity demand could be reduced by around 50%.”
Together with this, the wind speed at the top of the towers will be studied, to determine the possible generation of wind energy. Meanwhile, the abundant groundwater, revealed in studies of the plot, will be used as a water reserve for cleaning, the irrigation of green areas and other necessities other than human consumption.
The “green roof” design philosophy will also be applied, which could include the use of both natural and artificial materials to create green spaces on the roofs of the building, such as over the basement and maintenance corridors, to obtain an adequate energy balance in those areas exposed to the sun.
Conceived as a key piece of the city’s civic center, which also includes the Antonio Maceo Plaza de la Revolución and its stained glass protocol hall, the Heredia Convention Theater and the future Mariana Grajales Memorial, the first luxury hotel in Santiago de Cuba, with its modern convention center, will inevitably be an intelligent building.
“All the historic, cultural, and natural values of this city and the province,” Garrido Rodríguez argued, “which bring together events such as the Cuban-Spanish-American War, sites and expressions declared World Heritage by UNESCO, the Gran Piedra and Sierra Maestra, call for event tourism.
“In addition we have the main gateway to the Caribbean and a direct link to South America, hence we have designed a convention center with a capacity of between 780 and 1,500 people, through flexible, multifunctional rooms, including three halls of great importance, another of a smaller format, and an exclusive zone, for the development of high level events.
“The concept of flexibility means we can subdivide these into smaller spaces; the center is distinguished by the possibility of adapting to a theater format, classrooms, or imperial hall with a large square table and speakers placed around it, equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual media and lighting.”
There will be a covered parking area under the convention center, offering direct access to its halls, both from the hotel itself and from the street, while it will meet the required evacuation standards in the event of disasters.
Garrido Rodríguez pointed out that the use of different technological systems responds to the intelligent hotel concept, whereby all processes are regulated and controlled, automated, and optimized, so that for the first time in the country, it will be possible to offer the highest quality comfort, service, and energy options, and an appropriate cost-benefit ratio.
The plot that the hotel will occupy is currently undergoing a dismantling and demolition process, the engineering and geological site investigations are in the final phase, and the improvements to be introduced in surrounding road, power, and sanitary networks, as well as the housing stock, are being studied.
Human capital will play a crucial role in meeting the planned objectives of this project. Hence, just as the tourism system is already working on the selection and training of personnel who will work in this modern facility, part of the multidisciplinary project group composed of 34 Emproy-15 specialists plans to exchange technical advice abroad.