My recent trip to Cuba was nothing less than enriching as it instantly exposed the almost secret opulence of a preserved and rich cultural history. The Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation’s trip to Cuba was as wonderful as I can imagine a tour to be. Chas Miller, the Foundation’s Executive Director, along with our wonderful Cuban guide Abel, diligently led us through Cuba visiting places that not many others can see. We were also so fortunate to have Tom Kligerman, who serves as President of the Soane Foundation, on our trip as he shared with us his architectural expertise and fascination of this magical island.
The Cuban people are proud of their country. During the 18th century, Cuba became the world’s largest sugar producer after achieving great wealth from its rich soil and sugarcane plantations. Cities such as Havana were filled with elegant stone mansions and exuberant palaces. Having endured several revolutions, it resumed its independence and wealth to later become known as the ‘jewel in the Caribbean crown’.
The island is literally a time capsule – it’s as if the clock stopped moving in 1960 upon the United States imposing the embargo against Cuba. The ubiquitous colorful 1950’s cars on the streets, the flea-market find vintage tableware at restaurants, and the very obvious lack of technology make one feel they are back in time over five decades ago.
The splendor of Cuba in its heyday between 1902 and 1959, is still very obvious beneath the crumbling facades of both interiors and exteriors. The classical architecture is pure – deteriorating but still in its original form with its integrity never having been compromised. Breath taking examples of such architecture exists with Beaux Arts buildings, Moorish, Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences, and then the beginnings of modernism, which are all prevalent. Not having freedom or money for so many decades has in a very twisted way preserved a magnificent island.
The natural beauty, architecture, culture, food, music and the rich history make for an extraordinary Caribbean island to visit. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves now. You will get a quick taste of the beauty of Cuba!