of Architecture in Havana (page
2 of 2)
of the Isabel II public walk, (now known as the Prado), had
begun in 1772 and it soon became a favorite gathering place.
Gradually enhanced over the years it was rennovated in the 19th
and 20th centuries with sculptures and vegetation.
According to the significance of this area
as the new city center, many important buildings were built
in the twenties and thirties.
del Prado in Havana
The outstanding Neoclassic Revival of the
Capitol, the Eclectic Presidential Palace, the amazing Art Deco
of the Bacardí Office building, are magnificent architectural
exponents of Havana's landmarks.
After the establishment of the Republic at the
beginning of the 20th century trading and harbor activities increased.
Due to the lack of enough spaces for storage, the ground floors
of many former mansions were turned into warehouse facilities. The
Old Town was deteriorated while housing was largely replaced by
services. A variety of shops then crowded Old Havana´s narrow
In the twenties the financial and banking center of the City, a
sort of "Little Wall Street", was fully consolidated.
Elegant buildings for foreign and national banks were then erected
. Among them, the National Bank on Obispo and Cuba Streets, the
Gelats Bank, the Trust Company, Chase Manhattan and others. The
city continued its expansion westwards and farther from the Old
Quarter. Only the commercial and administrative areas were able
to resist the increasing decline of this valuable urban sector.
Today the so called Historic Center of Havana comprises
the area of the original quarter enclosed by the city walls as well
as the 19th century expansion on the Prado. This area represents
214 hectares, 4,000 buildings (900 of which are landmarks of a high
value). Though currently, the overall condition of Old Havana's
buildings is alarming, this historic sector has retained its integrity
and authenticity in a large extent.
In 1982, UNESCO declared Old Havana and its fortifications
as World Heritage Sites recognizing not only their outstanding values,
but also their legal protection and the ongoing rehabilitation programs
already undertaken at that moment. From 1981 to 1990 major restoration
works had been carried out on different historic squares, streets
After the difficult period, which followed the
collapse of the Socialist field with which Cuba had concentrated
most of its trade, most restoration works were paralyzed. But in
1993 Cuban government confirmed its commitment to preserving the
national heritage by granting, special powers to the Office of the
City's Historian in order to achieve a sustainable management of
the Old Quarter.
Since then, the Office
has been able, for instance, to administrate tourism facilities,
and get taxes from the entities in the territory, thus raising
funds to invest on preservation. Not only attractive museums,
charming historic hotels, restaurants and shops have been installed
or refurbished, but also social facilities as a maternity clinic,
a center for disabled children, and elementary schools.
market in front of
Cathedral of Havana
Popular housing poses a tremendous challenge that
is being faced and has still to find proper ways for broader solutions.
to Cuban Architecture main page