Cuba Architecture

By | December 16, 2021

The efforts made by the authorities, in the years following the revolution, to cope with the pressing problem of the lack of housing had proved ineffective due to technical choices not calibrated on the real conditions in which they had to operate: in particular the planned use on large prefabrication scale had run aground in the face of a lack of infrastructure and skilled technicians. Thus, at the beginning of the seventies there was an attempt to introduce criteria more responsive to the technical-constructive structures actually available through the establishment of ” micro-brigades ”.

These are formed by a group of at least 32 workers with no particular qualifications who are diverted from their normal productive activity to be used in the construction of houses, with semi-artisan systems, under the technical direction of professionals. This first adjustment of the building policy made it possible to significantly increase production capacities in the sector, passing from an expenditure of 329 million pesos in 1970 to over one billion in 1980.

However, significant shortcomings persist, in December 1984 a different strategy called “por propio esfuerzo” was launched as part of the new “Ley de Vivienda” (law for residential construction), which also gave tenants the opportunity to redeem their homes. state-owned. For Cuba 2000, please check

The objective of this new approach is to facilitate the direct construction of buildings by individuals or cooperatives: for this purpose, technical support is provided to improve the quality of these handicrafts which, in the year preceding the issue of the law, reached a number seven times higher than that of the constructions carried out entirely by state-owned enterprises.

At the same time as this situation of widespread persistence of traditional methodologies, between the end of the seventies and the first half of the following decade, the experimentation of prefabricated structures continued through the realization of works of greater importance: this is the case of the Centro de Investigaciones de Sanidad Animal in Havana, the work of O. Pairol, and the Central Palace of the Pioneers of the Lenin Park in the same city, where N. Garmendía effectively applies the methodology, common to the most qualified contemporary Cuban architects, consisting in the integration between advanced construction technologies and typological elements recurring on the island, such as courtyards and arcades.

The inspiring criteria of the Assembly Building, designed by A. Quintana Simonetti, are similar, where the essential geometric layout of the complex is combined with the materials of colonial architecture. In the Higher Institute of Agricultural Sciences, also in Havana, the potential repetitiveness of the modular grid is avoided by means of unevenness in the ground that deeply articulate the open spaces between the built volumes. Also noteworthy for the analogous experimental tension are the Pasacaballos hotel by M. Girona, the La Ruina restaurant in Havana, by J. Galván, and the embassy of Cuba in Mexico, by F. Salinas.

An interesting new element in the Cuban cultural panorama of the 1980s is the systematic launch of ambitious restoration operations involving the most important ancient urban settlements on the island: Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo. The most important case is that of the historic center of the capital, La Habana Vieja, which was included in the UNESCO list of world heritage in 1982.

The urban restoration program prepared in 1981, after five years of work, by a group of professionals from the Department of Monuments of the Ministry of Culture coordinated by the architect E. Capablanca, constitutes, together with the “ green system ” extended over 1400 ha bordering the city, the most qualifying element of the 1983 master plan.

The historical part of the inhabited area in the past decades had reached levels of extreme decay: in recent times the triggering of cultural activities in the buildings already recovered has given rise to the global urban enhancement operation, whose conclusion is expected at the beginning. of the next century.

The first interventions were carried out on some of the most significant monuments of the colonial era: the House of the Counts of Jaruco, the Convent of Santa Chiara, the Palazzo dei Capitani Generale and the Templete. The next phase involves the restoration of entire blocks through the rehabilitation of the minor building fabric also with the re-proposal of the destroyed parts. After the works in the Plaza de la Catedral, in the Plaza de Armas and in the Calle Obispo, the renovation of the Plaza Vieja is being carried out. The evident positive results achieved by this operation are however partially obscured by the excessive zeal in the reconstructions, also extended to the furnishing details, which in some cases give the urban areas concerned the appearance of a theatrical scenography.