Adrián García Álvarez, Franca chair
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

Last June, during the first Bienal del Diseño La Habana, the New York-based organization EcoArt Project announced “the first eco-sustainable furniture and lighting design competition in Cuba.” (See the Cuban Art News story here.)

Now, the Design Havana competition is heading into the home stretch.

From a pool of 37 entries, an international panel of designers and other experts has selected five finalists. Each of them was given an award of US$1,000, which supported the creation of their prototypes.

Those works will be on view in the Design Havana Exhibition, opening May 10 in the Vedado space of the design firm Lab 26 [Calle 26 No. 255 between 19 and 21].

Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

Presented as part of the 14th annual Semana del diseño en Cuba (Design Week in Cuba), the exhibition will kick off with a 6 p.m. reception. At that time, the winner of the Design Havana competition will be announced.

The winner will be invited to participate in a fully subsidized design residence program in Italy.

The panel of award jurors included US design guru David Rockwell and Carlo Ducci, a director of Vogue Italia and Casa Vogue. Others on the eight-person panel included Pino Fortunato, executive director of EcoArt Project; Gisela Herrero García, head of the Oficina Nacional de Diseño (ONDi), the institution behind Design Week in Cuba; and Vilma Bartolomé, co-founder of Proyecto Espacios and Lab 26.

The competition was open to designers at any stage of their careers, and the finalists ranged from students to established professionals.

Here’s a quick look at the five finalists and their entries.

Osmay Manuel Cabrera Carrazana: sitDown

Osmay Manuel Cabrera Carrazana, sitDown chair
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

Cabrera Carrazana is one of two finalists who are currently students at ISDi, the Instituto Superior de Diseño. Made of recycled materials, his sitDown chair was one of two entries he submitted. (For a look at the other submission, see Cabrera Carrazana’s page on the EcoArt Design Havana website.)

Lisandra Buiría Sanabria: Cohn

Lisandra Buiría Sanabria, Cohn light
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

Submitted from Camagüey, the lamp designed by architect Lisandra Buiría Sanabria is as much a sculptural presence as a source of illumination.

Jorge Gustavo González Boffil: Tumbona en hormigón liviano

Jorge Gustavo González Boffil, Deck chair in lightweight concrete
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

Industrial designer González Boffil graduated from ISDi last year. While fulfilling his national social service at the Universidad de Las Tunas, he designed this deck chair.

“This project is a piece of outdoor furniture with a low environmental impact, made of a material that is innovative for this type of product–a lightweight cement in a base of EPS (expanded polystyrene),” he wrote in his description of the chair.

Another view of Jorge Gustavo González Boffil’s deck chair in lightweight concrete
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

“The design of this product incorporates wood, to achieve greater eye appeal in the contrast with the concrete, and greater comfort from the sensation of bare skin on wood. In this way, the chair fulfills its useful function, as well as an environmental reclamation function, through its use of recycled plastic and EPS. The deck chair is a piece of outdoor furniture that has made good use of its material–the concrete that gives the piece its distinctive form and sets it apart from the usual run of these products, which are generally made of plastic or wood.”

Adrián García Álvarez: Franca and Mogote

Adrián García Álvarez, Franca chair
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

García Álvarez is the second ISDi student among the finalists. Currently a fourth-year student, he won last year’s Premio ONDi for student industrial design.

Of his chair design, García Álvarez wrote: Franca is about how the typical Cuban is (or at least tries to synthesize such a wide range of possibilities): solidary, irreverent, extroverted and given to good causes. Its wide frame is like the shelter of an embrace, the intimacy of a friend. The transparency of the grid, made of yarey palm, is very much “us:” we always talk straight and loud, without fear of the truth. It also incorporates a retrospective look at furniture in Cuba, from colonial-style armchairs to the formal simplicity achieved by such masters as Clara Porset or Gonzalo Cordoba, combining contemporary elements.”

Adrián García Álvarez, Mogote table
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

García Álvarez wrote that his table, Mogote, “evokes the singularity of the Cuban western countryside, dotted with small elevations characteristic of the Viñales Valley, with abundant fertile land and kind people. The natural transitions of color and texture, constant to infinity; those abrupt changes from the horizon to the verticality of the steep mogotes (flat-topped hills), and the mystical mist with which the landscape awakens every day make it an icon in this corner of the world. The design comes only to rescue the ‘order’ of an apparent ‘chaos,’ to establish a certain rationality, appropriating these elements to generate forms that recall the valley through the morphology of the bottle, as a metaphor for the mogote.”

Amalia Martínez Caballero: Cosmos

Amalia Martínez Caballero, the Cosmos grouping, incorporating the Cosmos shelf unit, Lumina light, and Satellite stools
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

In creating her shelving unit, industrial designer Amalia Martínez Caballero was inspired by outer space, planets, and satellites.

“The shelf is made up of five modules, whose shapes and dimensions make possible the optimization of cuts and the maximum use of a single sheet of Plywood,” she wrote.

“The light, inspired by the shape of cosmic planets and satellites and their ability to rotate on an axis and project light, can be coupled to any of the circular cuts in the modules’ surfaces. The fixture uses LED lighting and a battery for its power, switching on and off by hand, making contact with a metal plate.

Another view of the Cosmos grouping by Amalia Martínez Caballero
Courtesy EcoArt Project Design Havana

“The uniqueness of the unit is in the potential of integrating the lighting in the furniture, as well as the combination of the various parts, with different configurations adapted to the context and needs of the user.”

The Design Havana Exhibition opens Wednesday, May 10, at 6 p.m. at LAB 26 in Vedado [Calle 26 No. 255 between 19 and 21]. It is part of the program of the 14to Semana del diseño en cubapresented by the Oficina Nacional del Diseño (ONDi). For more Design Week events, check the ONDi website.