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Soane Foundation

Cuban Style

Cuban Style

2015-12-26-10.57.22
2015-12-26-10.57.22

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!

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IMG_1913---Fundacion-Ludwig---handsome-interior-shutters
IMG_1913---Fundacion-Ludwig---handsome-interior-shutters
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2015-12-25-10.02.52

Cuba

Cuba

2015-12-26-10.00.57
2015-12-26-10.00.57

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!

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