La Escuela Taller Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos [Workshop School]
A brief history Training youth to preserve their architectural heritage
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Teacher demonstrates restoration technique.
LA ESCUELA TALLER Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos was established in 1992 by the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation and the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana. The mission of the school is to create young specialists to rescue and restore old buildings and monuments in Havana. The school's name pays tribute to the famous Spanish neoclassical statesman, author, philosopher and main figure of the Age of Enlightenment in Spain. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos was born 5 January 1744 in Gijón, Asturias, Spain. He died on 27 November 1811 following several years in prison for criticizing cruel government policies. De Jovellanos was also an progressive jurist, social reformer and advocate for peasants and working people.

Entrance to the Escuela Taller in Old Havana.
Since the school's foundation, many youths, between the ages of 18 and 21 years, have become qualified bricklayers, carpenters, painters, stonemasons, blacksmiths, glass artisans, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, and mural restorationists. Some have also become archeologists and teachers.

The school has graduated hundreds of students, and has guaranteed employment to local youth in the rewarding field of restoration and rehabilitation of the beautiful buildings of Old Havana. Havana harbors the largest collection of Spanish colonial-era buildings in the Americas.

Volunteers from Spain work with Cuban students at Escuela Taller.
Students enroll in the school with little or no experience and graduate as master craft workers and artisans. The school places a special emphasis on disadvantaged students from the neighborhood of Old Havana. To be accepted in the school, a student must convince professors of her/his commitment to heritage preservation.

School programs last for two years during which students learn practical skills and obtain theoretical understanding of their unique field of study. Upon graduation students are issued a Diploma of Craft Laborer Qualified in Restoration in their chosen specialty.

Results of Escuela Taller students' work. Left New restoration, right awaiting rehabiliation.
In the first semester of the first year of study, students conquer basic subjects such as math, culture, history of architecture, technical drawing, construction materials, and practical subjects focused on their craft specialty. Beginning with their second semester they pursue theoretical aspects of their specialty and engage in hands-on practice.

At the theoretical level students deal with many challenges of historic and economic importance: they must be able to determine when to restore, to replace, to repair, to consolidate and to substitute.

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos.
Students also visit museums and plan exhibits and expositions. They assist at conferences and events related to historical restoration and rehabilitation. Students who excel are encouraged to become teachers in their specialties. Many students have gone on to pursue a higher Degree in Restoration, requiring two more years of mentoring – working as apprentices to masters.

Escuela Taller helps ensure that a new generation of craft workers and artisans will cherish and protect the ancient skills necessary to revive and resuscitate Cuba's incredible architecture patrimony – a gift island people are honored to share with the entire world.
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