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.
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.
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
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 forties 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
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.
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