Cuba’s rich and vast architectural history shows us how thoughtfully stylized almost every aspect of its design is. There is an overwhelming feeling that can be defined by the word ‘ornate’ – even if in a modest way. No matter what the influence may be – Spanish Colonial, Moorish , Beaux Arts , Art Nouveau, Art Deco or Mid-Century Modern – it is highly sophisticated and detailed in its language. Although in many places the structures are truly crumbling, the wealth and culture of decades gone by is still wondrously preserved.
The prevalent pattern of arches and columns is expansive in either the most simple or the most elaborate of classical forms. Amongst the arched structures are images of the spectacular Catalan-vaulted brick and terra-cotta mazes of theaters and tunnels called the ‘Instituto Superior de Arte’, or the Cuban National Arts Schools. This school for the arts was conceived and built by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in the early 1960’s but quickly fell out of favor by 1965 with the Russian influence and has been abandoned ever since.
This mindful Cuban design is evident throughout the island – as seen in intricately carved stonework and woodwork, Lalique glass panels and sconces, vibrant Caribbean color, beautiful doors, those fabulous 1950’s cars, stained glass transoms, and endless balconies and stair rails with elaborately molded ironwork. Also notice the influence of the bat, considered to be good luck in Cuban mythology and embraced by the Bacardi family. However, the bat in the Colon Cemetery is considered bad luck as one is not to go to a cemetery at night when the bats fly!
Once again, I will let the images portray the experience of visiting Cuba far better than words so please enjoy the stylized detail. And a special thank you to Chas Miller, Executive Director of the Soane Foundation, for sharing a few of his beautiful photos!