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  User Participation

46. Users discussing plans with design team.
We wanted people who would be living in the community to be involved in its design so we met with them and described the work we had done so far.

47.  Visiting users homes.
 We visited them in their homes.

48. Learning what they liked in their existing homes and what they didn't like.
We asked what they liked and didn't like in their current situations.  We explored how we could meet their needs in the new designs.

We also were able to test design ideas with them.  In the office the architects would sometimes argue over what people would like.  Now, however, "they" were not an abstraction but individuals we could check directly with.

 With plans for the first phase completed, construction began in 1988.  The construction workers carved the project name into a rock: "La Arboleda". 

 It was exciting to see the sign announcing the new community.

51. Architects & builder's office on site.
Ledia Martinez (architect with Microbrigades), Manolo (construction boss) and myself (Huck Rorick, architect with Groundwork).

52. Meeting with construction workers, architects & planners.
We wanted the involvement, understanding and input of the construction workers.  So we met with all of them and explained the concepts of the project fully from conserving the trees, to apartment design, to recycling, sewage system, roads and to the overall town plan.  We presented the ideas in the same way as we had to the architectural team, planners, government Ministries and technical specialists.

We wanted them as part of the creative force of the project, not just strong backs.  As we discovered, this had powerful impacts on the project as it moved forward which I will describe to you further on.

We were assisted in our work by top specialists from around the world who donated their time to people who otherwise could not have afforded their expertise.  Here Peter Calthorpe and Huck Rorick observe the starting of foundations.

Strong personal connections developed between all the project team members.  Start of construction coincided with the birth of my daughter Roxanne who is seen here surveying the site in the arms of one of the construction crew.

These people are building homes for themselves and their friends.

They are part of a unique system in Cuba called the Microbrigades.  In the Microbrigade system, people at a workplace where there is a housing need arrange to release some people from their regular duties and cover their work for them.  These released workers then use their time to build housing that will be used to meet the housing needs of people at that workplace...

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