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Each architect and construction crew took primary responsibility for one or more buildings.

As a result, although our whole team shared basic concepts, each building had its own special quality and flavor.

Preserving the Trees.

This picture reminds me of when we first said we wanted to preserve the trees.  The normal procedure was to bulldoze everything and clear the site.  The architects said that even if we got our plan approved with the trees, the construction workers would cut them.

One of the architects told me a story.  He had been working on the plan for a new community.  One day Fidel came to visit them.  They explained their plans at length to Fidel.  He listened.  When they were finished he said, "I just want to ask you for one thing."  He pointed to a tree and said, "Save this tree."   The architects were eager to comply.  They modified their plans and even designed a small plaza around the tree.  While the plaza was being built, they came out one day and found the tree had been cut down.  It was not an encouraging story.

71. Arborist, Berrayarza, examining a tree.
However, at Las Arboledas we succeeded in preserving the trees.  It is one of many instances where  I discovered the importance of our decision and commitment  to involving the construction workers as part of our creative force.

I left Cuba just before construction started.  I returned when the first grading and layout for foundations was being done.  I wasn't sure what I would find on my return.  Trees leveled and cleared away for the convenience of equipment?  I came out to the site and noticed extensive grading and other work, but the trees were all intact.  I walked up to a construction worker who I didn't know and said, "I see you are protecting the trees."  He said, "Yes, that is why this is called Las Arboledas (the woods)."  He had a clear vision of this concept for the project and had incorporated it into his attitude and intention for his work.

Here you can see heavy equipment maneuvering around the trees.  

I was watching this dump truck dump its load.  The large truck was guided in amongst the trees.  As the bed raised up to dump it came close to one of the branches.  Rather than let the truck break the branch, one of the workers climbed up the bed of the truck to get it out of the way.  He didn't cut it, as I had often seen workers do on other jobs, instead he pushed it gently out of the way until the load was dumped, and then let it come back in place.

Ad hoc barriers were set up to protect trees.


If anything, the care of the construction crews in preserving the trees was excessive.  They built 5 story buildings within a few meters of large trees. 

When the buildings were complete you could walk up to the 3rd story balcony, reach out and pick a mango.

Conserving the trees proved to be much more important than we originally imagined.  Perhaps that is because it was a concrete step in the process of respect:  respect for what exists, trees, people, buildings, animals, the sun..  Buildings were placed more sensitively, construction was done more carefully.   It seemed that many activities, in both design and construction, were handled with more attention and sensitivity.

Preserving the trees also carried the thought: don't discard anything, don't waste anything.

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