The Strikingly Well-Preserved Modernist Homes of Pre-Revolutionary Cuba

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[Thanks to Leslie Offutt for bringing this item to our attention.] Anika Burgess features modernist architecture of Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood with photos by Stephen Allen.

In 1957, the last private residence in Havana to be designed by Cuban architect Ricardo Porro was finished. Situated in the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, it featured a sharply angled roof and a wave-shaped exterior wall. In the nearly 60 years since its completion, little appears to have changed, except for today, it is surrounded by a tall iron fence.

It’s not the only modern architecture in town, either. Havana might be more closely associated with image of crumbling Colonial structures, with those oft-photographed brightly colored classic cars. Yet in the 1950s, there was a boom in construction for modernist architecture, for those who could afford it. According to Architectural Digest, it was the Spanish immigrants who first brought the modernismefrom Gaudi, followed by Art Deco and other styles in the 1920s. At the time, Cuba was riding high, with one of the most per capita income of any Caribbean country and a thriving nightlife.

Then, of course, came the Revolution of 1959 and many of Cuba’s architects left the country. Porro, however, returned to Cuba from Venezuela. He was commissionedto work on the National Arts Schools, until his designs fell from favor before leaving in exile in 1966. In the same decade, the Architects Association ceased to exist and the architecture school became known as the “Faculty of Construction Work”. [. . .] Although some of the residences are falling into disrepair, their clean lines remain elegant. [. . .]

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