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Design and Culture in Cuba

Design and Culture in Cuba
Havana, Trinidad and Santa Clara, Cuba; Miami, Florida
Language of Instruction: 
Winter Break
Academic Disciplines: 
Design--Illustration & Animation
Design--Industrial Design
Design--Photo Media
Design--Visual Communication Design
Graduate Courses
Program Type: 
  • Experience Cuba at this historically important time
  • Visit historical and culturally significant sites in Havana, Vinales, Trinidad and Santa Clara
  • Travel through the picturesque rural Cuban landscape
  • Research Cuban design history at The Wolfsonian-FIU Design Museum
  • See contemporary art and architecture in Miami Beach.
  • Receive up to 6 credit hours
  • No language experience required
Program Summary: 

The times they are a-changin’. With President Obama’s December 2014 announcement of renewing relations with Cuba and with the reopening of the U.S. embassy after 54 years, a new era has dawned on the Caribbean island. This small country that played a major role in the Cold War is a shell of its former glory. Everywhere are reminders of its former connections with the U.S. and later with the Soviet Union. Today’s post-Fidel Cuba is a country that wants to rebuild and reconnect with the outside world.

In this program we will explore the history and culture of the changing Cuba.  Activities will highlight Havana’s, as well as Trinidad and Santa Clara’s, uniqueness and character. In Miami we will discover the cultural influence of the Cuban exile community in South Florida. Participants will research how our perceived ideas of Cuba, developed through media (news, books, films, TV, tourism advertising, and propaganda), compare with the reality of place. We will study architecture, design and culture through city tours, museum visits, and adventures with locals in both Cuba and Miami.


Depart Kansas City for Miami: Sunday, December 30, 2018

Depart Miami for Havana: Friday, January 4, 2019

Depart Santa Clara for Miami: Sunday, January 13, 2019

Depart Miami for Kansas City: Sunday, January 13, 2019


Havana, Cuba

Intoxicatingly colorful, deeply intriguing, Cuba is a place like no other. The culture of Cuba is a complex mixture of different, often contrasting, factors and influences. Cuba is a meeting point of European, African, Chinese, and continental North American cultures. Since 1959, the Cuban Revolution has also greatly affected Cuban culture, down to the most basic aspects of daily life. Cuba’s capitol and largest city, Havana, is central in any discussion of the island. Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, today’s Havana has three distinct areas: Old Havava, Vedado, and the city suburbs. Each area has its own distinct style of architecture and urban feel. 

Trinidad and Santa Clara, Cuba

Located on Cuba’s southern coast, southeast of Havana and near the Escambray Mountains, Trinidad is an open-air museum of colonial architecture and city planning. In 1988 this small city was reconized as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. Santa Clara, the third largest city in Cuba, is the site of the final urban battle of the Cuban Revolution (1958). Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara led the rebel forces as they derailed and stopped the government’s troop trains just outside the city.

Miami, Florida

Nicknamed the ‘Capital of Latin America’, Miami is an American city with a Spanish-speaking majority. 35% of its population is of Cuban origin. Since the early 1960s the Cuban exile community has greatly influenced its art, culture, and politics.

Academic Information: 
  • Required course: ADS 532 Design and Culture in Cuba (3 credit hours)
  • Optional course: ADS 533 Study Abroad Documentation (3 credit hours)

During the fall semester, KU students will be expected to attend presentations and discussions in order to become acquainted with the history and culture of Cuba. Students will be given a variety of research assignments to prepare prior to travel. Assigned readings and videos to watch will also be included in this prep work.

ADS 532 Design and Culture in Cuba: Studio course where students will observe, take note and document the architecture, design, art, and culture of Cuba. Prior to departure each student will choose several subjects to research and observe while abroad. Subjects can include anything that is part of everyday life in both cities. Students will document their subjects by collecting images, making sketches and writing observations. A book and exhibition featuring each students’ collections will be produced to document this experience.

ADS 533 Study Abroad Documentation: This course includes relevant assigned research topics to be completed during the Spring Semester after travel initiates. Documentation of the travel experience itself will satisfy the rest of the requirements for credit. In a photographic and literary journal of the trip, students will keep notes, reflections and visual information for evaluation by the instructors.

Mandatory attendance is required at all scheduled visits during the program.


In Cuba, participants will stay in casas particulares (bed and breakfast accommodations in a private home). In Miami, participants will stay in 4-8 person occupancy rooms at the Freehand Miami Hotel in Miami Beach.  

Life Abroad: 

Miami and Miami Beach: Participants will visit The Wolfsonian-FIU (Design Museum), 1111 Lincoln Road and the Pérez Art Museum (both designed by Herzog & de Meuron), the Wynwood Gallery District, Rubell Family Collection (Art Museum), the Miami Design District, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Little Havana as well as tour Everglades National Park. Participants will also walk Ocean Drive and visit the South Beach Art Deco District.

Havana: While in Cuba, participants will explore historic sites, and see architecture (Colonial, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern), participate in cultural activities as well as connect with Cuban designers, photographers, and students. Participants will explore La Habana Vieja (old Havana), visit the Museo de la Revolución, Che’s former home in Havana, and Fábrica de Arte Cubano (art center), eat at some of Havana’s best small restaurants, and see a live Jazz performance at La Zorra y el Cuervo. Participants will also visit Plaza de la Revolución and Monumento a José Martí. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to visit Ernest Hemingway’s house and the fishing village that inspired “The Old Man and the Sea”.

Viñales, Trinidad, and Santa Clara: Participants will tour Las Terrazas, an eco-community of artists & coffee growers, eat at a local farm in Viñales, and relax on the beach at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs). We will explore the historic Spanish architecture of the colonial town of Trinidad and tour the city of Santa Clara before flying back to Miami.


Open to all undergraduate or graduate degree-seeking students from any accredited U.S. college or university. Priority will be given to KU design and architecture students. Minimum 2.5 GPA required (exceptions considered after submission of a petition).

Program Faculty: 

Tim Hossler As the former in-house art director for photographer Annie Leibovitz Tim helped Ms. Leibovitz create her most memorable images, books and exhibitions of the late 90’s through the early 2000’s. Tim holds a degree in Architecture from Kansas State University (1993) and a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art (2005). He was the Director of Design at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the Art Director of The Wolfsonian–Florida International University in Miami Beach before coming to KU in 2011. Tim is currently an assistant professor of Visual Communications. In addition to teaching he continues to work with artists, photographers and cultural institutions to create visual narratives. In 2012 he collaborated with British fashion photographer Tim Walker and art director Ruth Ansel to create Walker's book and exhibition Story Teller.

For more information contact:

Tim Hossler, Associate Professor
Design Department, School of Architecture and Design
Office 136 Marvin Studios


Study Abroad Information Center
To learn more about your study abroad options, we encourage you to visit the Study Abroad Info Center (105 Lippincott Hall). The Study Abroad Info Center offers walk-in advising for current and prospective students. Drop by to learn more about program options, make an appointment with a study abroad program coordinator, get information on scholarships and financial aid, and talk to returned study abroad students. We also encourage you to explore the resources available on our website to learn more about the application process, KU Core Approved programs, and the cost of study abroad. 

Study Abroad Information Center
Lippincott Hall, Room 105
1410 Jayhawk Boulevard
Hours: Monday - Friday. 9AM - 5 PM
Contact: studyabroad@ku.edu

Study Abroad Financial Advising
The Office of Study Abroad has weekly 'You Can Afford to Study Abroad' Financial Aid and Scholarship Info Sessions/Open Meetings on Wednesday afternoons at 4:00 pm and Thursday afternoons at 2:00 pm in the Info Center (105 Lippincott Hall). The financial aid officer will be happy to take any questions and can offer individual advising at the end of sessions for specific concerns. For those that cannot attend the weekly Info Sessions due to scheduling conflicts, we also offer appointments for financial planning as well as financial aid and scholarship advising for students. Please visit 108 Lippincott Hall or call 785-864-3742 to set up an appointment.


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