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History of Cuban Architecture

During the first stages of colonization of the Island by Spain, along the 16th and 17th centuries and due to the need for defense from corsairs, pirates and all enemies of Spain, the most significant buildings were fortresses. The most impressive were La Fuerza, Morro and La Punta Castles. After 1762 British's attack and seizure of Havana, made it necessary to build stronger ones, like La Cabaña by the harbor's channel.

Religious architecture also dominated the townscape in the 17th and 18th centuries. Santa Clara Convent, built in 1632, is the oldest one for nuns and had three handsome cloisters. Others like San Francisco, Belén and Santa Teresa were built later.

Havana´s Cahtedral in Havana, Cuba.

The 18th-century Cathedral of Havana, with an evident Italian influence, is the most outstanding Baroque monument in Cuba. Other significant churches are La Merced and Santo Cristo.Since the 17th century, Cuban Colonial houses had beautiful wooden ceilings and balconies and were generally organized around patios or courtyards, following the Moorish and South Spanish traditions.

Cathedral of Havana

In the 18th century galleries with arcades were added to those houses facing squares like Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, San Francisco, Plaza Vieja and others. Many arcades around the central courtyards and in the upper stories´ exterior loggias, were closed with colored glasses and louvers in the 19th century. Together with the courtyards, these are the most typical characteristics of Cuban Colonial domestic architecture, all of them responding to local climatic conditions.

Nineteenth century architecture adopted Neoclassical patterns and turned to be more monumental. Elegant marble staircases, floors and sculptures were then very common. A remarkable diversity of design appeared on ironworks for grills, balustrades and other elements. At the beginning of the 20th century, with the Republican period, Eclecticism was the style employed for most constructions. Art Nouveau, under the Catalonian Modernist trends, was also introduced by the many Catalonian constructors who worked in Cuba at that time. Eclecticism, with its profuse variety of revivals, was the dominant architectural expression until the twenties. Neo Renaissance, Neo Baroque, Neo Gothic, Neo Moorish, Neo Colonial or Californian buildings appeared everywhere. Art Deco, as a transition between Eclecticism and Modern, appeared in Cuba mainly in the thirties, adopting not only French but, basically, the American patterns.

Since the fourties the International Style and the Modern Movement predominated in the design of new buildings. Cuban Modern architecture followed the most advanced trends and produced outstanding exponents.

In the first years after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, there was an architectural romantic trend represented by the Cubanacan Schools of Arts. Other remarkable complexes like the José Antonio Echeverría Politechnic Institute and the East Havana Neighborhood Unit were then built.

In the seventies pragmatic tendencies, strongly influenced by Eastern European patterns, were applied. One example is the huge Alamar housing district in Havana.

Currently, architecture for tourism has been producing interesting examples like the Melia Habana or the Melia Varadero both designed by Architect Abel García. Among the most interesting architectural achievements are the expansion the National Bank Headquarters on Fifth Avenue and La Puntilla Shopping Center in Miramar by Architects José A. Choy and Julia León.

Melia Varadero Hotel in Matanzas province, Cuba
Meliá Varadero Hotel

Also check on Cuban Architecture
  History of Cuban Architecture
  History of Architecture in Havana
  Interesting Places

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