On June 11, 2003, the field of architectural preservation lost one of its most passionate and devoted practitioners. Roberto Lopez Bastida, director of the Office of the Conservator in Trinidad de Cuba in Cuba, passed away in Havana after a rapid bout with bacterial meningitis. He was 45.
Roberto—or "Macholo," as he was known to everyone—was a lifelong resident of Trinidad de Cuba—a Caribbean port town that, together with its surrounding Valley of the Sugar Mills, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. A graduate of the University of Santa Clara and Havana's National Center for Conservation, Restoration, and Museology, Macholo was the region's chief architect and conservator since 1983 and an adjunct professor of architecture at the University of Santa Clara since 2000. Outspoken, gregarious, and kinetic, he was a man whose personal and professional life revolved around the conservation of the cobbled streets and earthen buildings of the city where he was born. He was a staunch proponent of the revitalizing abilities of architectural preservation and an expert in all aspects of his city's culture and history—from the unique African traditions of its slave ancestry, to the composition of its 18th- and 19th-century vernacular architecture. Recognizing the breadth of his knowledge, the GCI invited Macholo to participate in the 1996 Pan American course on the preservation of earthen architecture jointly sponsored by the GCI, ICCROM, and CRATerre-EAG. The following year he was invited back as an adjunct professor.
Macholo—who is survived by his wife, son, and two daughters—will be remembered with affection and admiration by friends and colleagues, and with devotion by the residents of his beloved Trinidad.