Emma Henderson

  • 2018
  • Architecture and Landscape Architecture
  • Architecture - MArch

Emma Henderson, Architecture - MArch: Conceptual architecture interventions in the city of Havana

Emma Henderson has used her understanding of the landscape of Havana to address political and economic issues with a fresh, creative perspective. Emma, along with her fellow students Emma Bennett and Shona Sivamohan, has been working on conceptual architecture interventions in the city.


We’ve been evolving our thesis from initial fieldwork, via an intense process of research-through-making, to speculative propositions for the bay of Havana. Our thesis ultimately draws from the social, political, economic and environmental context recorded during fieldwork investigation. It confronts the reality that, as Havana restores its historic core, many people are being displaced. Responding to this, we have designed parallel urban conditions that address the urgent need for sustainable water systems and housing.

Instead of looking solely to other architects for inspiration, we’ve developed a much broader field of reference. We have found allies in seemingly disparate places; filmmakers, Cuban novelists, nautical charts, a construction workshop in Hungary. Havana – ever since we first witnessed it in our initial fieldtrip – remains the biggest influence over our work.

The studio began before Trump’s election and Castro’s death. Cuba had been tentatively emerging from cultural, political and economic insularity – a result of decades of embargo. As bridges reformed with the West, Havana’s future was (and still is) uncertain. We were initially drawn to Havana for the unique opportunity to study a city on the edge of major change.

A proposal for a new urban landscape in the bay in Havana
A proposal for a new urban landscape in the bay in Havana


The integrated pathway at Edinburgh College of Art demands high levels of rigour and stamina and I’ve been fortunate to share the workload with two incredible women. So it never feels too overwhelming, even in the weeks before a deadline. We always make time to cook together, dance together and watch very, very bad TV together.

All my early memories of art involve the jaunty SMart theme tune, but Paris is where I first became aware of Art (with a capital A). It’s the first big city I called home, and while there were a few reasons to not like living in Paris, you can’t fault it for its buildings, streets and public spaces.

I chose to stay at ECA for the MArch because I wanted to be able to continue researching issues of sustainability and social responsibility in urbanisation, whilst retaining access to the amazing range of workshops and Technical Learning Services staff at ECA.

We’ve worked alongside our studio leaders, Vicky and Adrian, for the past two years. Over that time, they’ve educated, supported and encouraged me, both academically and personally. I’m sure that everyone who’s been lucky enough to join their studios shares my deep respect for them, both as practitioners and as individuals.

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