Cuban Modernism. Mid-Century Architecture 1940-1970.

Page 1

For several decades in the 20th century, modern archi-

Joseph Rykwert

Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania

tecture thrived in Cuba, and a wealth of buildings was realized prior to the revolution of 1959 and in its wake. The designs comprise luxurious nightclubs and stylish

well-suited to life in the tropics. The publication high-

Barry Bergdoll

lights virtually unknown and previously inaccessible

Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History

visual material, both from university and family archives.

Columbia University

apartment complexes, both on the island and abroad. Drawing on the vernacular, these architects defined a way to be modern and Cuban at the same time—creating an architecture oscillating between avantgarde and tradition. Audacious concrete shells, curving ramps, arresting brise-soleils, a fluidity of interior and exterior spaces, impressive murals and other integrated works of art are

The stunning contemporary photographs were taken specially for the book and new drawings were prepared for it. A biographical survey portrays forty of the most important Cuban architects and artists of the era.

www.birkhauser.com

Victor Deupi Jean-François Lejeune

characteristic of an airy, often colorful architecture

For the decades on either side of its 1959 political revolution, Cuba was a laboratory of architectural and urban planning experiments. With a stunning assembly of historic photographs and original architectural drawings, Cuban Modernism offers a fascinating reading of architectural developments as a complex dialogue between traditions and innovations on an island at the crossroads between North and South America. After 1959, Cuban architects carried these innovations with them to Caracas and Puerto Rico, to the US and France.

hotels, sports facilities, elegant private homes and

Cuban Modernism

If you are inclined to consider Cuba a provincial outpost of modernity, Deupi and Lejeune will soon put you right. From the early thirties Cuba had both modernist and traditionalist periodicals. Its students uniquely held a public burning of Vignola’s handbook in 1944 and welcomed, as did their teachers, visits from Neutra, Gropius, Sert’s prolonged working stay, and an aborted scheme by Mies. Deupi and Lejeune offer an unrivalled— balanced and fair—survey of the island’s architectural story over a dramatic half-century and more.

Victor Deupi Jean-François Lejeune

Cuban Modernism

Mid-Century Architecture 1940 –1970


Victor Deupi Jean-François Lejeune

Cuban Modernism

Mid-Century Architecture 1940 –1970 With photography by Silvia Ros

Birkhäuser Basel

BV_Cuba.indb 3

16.12.20 18:26


CONTENTS

PREFACE ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  6

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 1

– Modernity and Cubanidad ��������������������������������������������������������  8

– The Modern Cuban House ���������������������������������������������������������������� 40

– The City as Landscape: Forestier, Sert, and the Planning of Havana ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 94

CHAPTER 2

– The Modern City: Housing, Civic Infrastructure, and Representation ������������������������������������������������������� 136

CHAPTER 3

– Tropicality, Tourism, and Leisure ��������������������������������������������� 212 With the Participation of Alfredo Rivera CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

– The Synthesis of the Arts ��������������������������������������������������������������� 250

CHAPTER 6

– Exile and Heritage ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 280

With the Participation of María Gabriela Dines

BIOGRAPHIES ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 316 Humberto Alonso * Raúl Álvarez * Nicolás Arroyo and Gabriela Menéndez * Carlos Artaud * Eugenio Batista * Max Borges * María Elena Cabarrocas * Hilario Candela * Aquiles Capablanca * Rafael de Cárdenas * Hugo Consuegra * Martín Domínguez * Emilio Fernández * Ricardo A. Galbis * José Gelabert and Rosa Navia * Ernesto GómezSampera and Mercedes Díaz * Sergio González * Henry W. Griffin * Enrique Gutiérrez * Manuel Gutiérrez * Emilio del Junco * Frank Martínez * Lilliam Mederos * Myrtha Merlo Vega * Víctor Morales * Nujim Nepomechie * Ermina Odoardo and Ricardo Eguilior * Ricardo Porro * Clara Porset * Elena and Alicia Pujals * Antonio Quintana * Nicolás Quintana * Mario Romañach * Daniel Serra Badué * Osvaldo de Tapia-Ruano

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 330 INDEX ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 334 ILLUSTRATION CREDITS ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 340 ABOUT THE AUTHORS ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 342

BV_Cuba.indb 5

16.12.20 18:26


BV_Cuba.indb 40

16.12.20 18:27


41

CHAPTER 1

The Modern Cuban House

Recently, our most concerned young architects have sought guidance in our colonial architecture, in the expressive nature of our Cuban citizenship. Indeed, we have many useful lessons to learn, not so much because of the indisputable artistic value of a great number of colonial residences, but because they are the result of an exemplary adaptation of our grandparents’ way of life to the same natural physical environment in which we live. In this earthly paradise that is the Island of Cuba, we enjoy the same climate, the same landscape, the same light, the same atmosphere, and we have the same natural materials.

BV_Cuba.indb 41

Eugenio Batista

16.12.20 18:27


43

1  The Modern Cuban House

0

10m

throughout the island.8 Built by Eugenio in 1938 in collaboration

tury parochial churches of San Juan Bautista in Remedios in

with his brother Ernesto, an engineer, the house was located

1944–1946 by Aquiles Maza, and Nuestra Señora del Carmen in

along the coast. In plan, the house wraps around a private

Santa Clara in the 1950s.11 They certainly viewed architectural

courtyard that sits between a motor court in the front and a

patronage as a meaningful way of celebrating the legacy of

rear patio with a pool overlooking the Straits of Florida. The in-

Cuban colonial architecture.

tegration of colonial vernacular elements such as brick, stucco,

Though certainly a threshold moment in the history of

wood, tile, and wide over-hanging eaves with a more modern

twentieth-century residential architecture in Cuba, the house

emphasis is very similar to what Frank Lloyd Wright had been

for Eutimio Falla Bonet only received the Medalla de Plata (Sil-

doing in his early career with the prairie-style houses. Batista’s

ver Medal) in the 1940 Premio Medalla de Oro competition.12

pin-wheel plan around the courtyard is also very much like

The winning prize went to Rafael de Cárdenas, also known as

Wright’s approach to the hearth as a centralizing device, though

Felo, who had worked with both Paul Frankl and Richard Neutra

here the patio is the focus. Throughout the scheme, wooden

in Los Angeles, designing several modern houses before re-

galleries intersect and connect the various volumes, creating

turning to Havana to resume his career.13 Back in Havana, de

an open plan that “devotes considerable space to living and

Cárdenas designed three modern properties in the Alturas de

lounging area, leaving the bedrooms relatively small.” Finally,

Miramar neighborhood for his maternal uncle, Bernabé

the architect painted the indoor bar with a landscape mural

Sánchez Batista.14 According to the historian Eduardo Luis

containing Creole motifs that underlined the rustic vueltabajera

Rodríguez, the three houses “form the most important group of

(referring to the regions “below and around” Havana) character

modern residences to be built during the thirties” in Cuba.15

of the structure.10 As great patrons of architecture, the Fallas

One of the houses was for Bernabé’s daughter, Anaís, who had

not only built superb residences but also engaged in early pres-

married the wealthy merchant, Augusto Echavarri y Aragón. It

ervation projects such as the restoration of the eighteenth-cen-

is likely that Bernabé had the houses built as gifts for his three

9

BV_Cuba.indb 43

5

16.12.20 18:27


44

BV_Cuba.indb 44

16.12.20 18:27


46

erties that he had designed for Bernabé Sánchez Batista, and

noted in his review of the competition that the Kaffenburg res-

without a doubt, the most modern of the five submissions for

idence fulfilled Le Corbusier’s mandate that a house be a

the prize. The final project was for a house for the attorney

“[beautiful] machine for living.”23 It would, however, be the

and industrialist Jorge E. de Cubas. It was the most rustic of de

first—and last—strictly traditional residential project to receive

Cárdenas’s designs, with projecting rafter tails, exposed wood-

the Medalla de Oro from the College of Architects.

19

en brackets, louvered shutters, and wooden columns and rail-

In the wake of the 1940 Medalla de Oro competition, Euge-

ings on the projecting balconies. Eduardo Luis Rodríguez has

nio Batista continued to experiment with the fusion of Cuban

described Rafael de Cárdenas as a “contradictory figure who

colonial architecture and aspects of modern abstraction and

seemed capable of delivering masterpieces in any style what-

simplicity in the casa-taller (house and studio) that he built for

soever,” and while his three competition submissions clearly

himself (ill. p. 50) in the Miramar neighborhood in 1944.24 Locat-

display his stylistic flexibility, the issue of contradiction remains

ed one block in from the coast on 3rd Avenue, the house con-

20

Today, it is widely recognized that many twenti-

sisted of three interlocking cubic volumes around a small

eth-century modernist architects from Adalberto Libera in Italy

courtyard, with a columnar porch at the back of the house

to José Antonio Coderch in Spain owed a great deal to the ver-

overlooking the garden—a solution not unlike the Falla Bonet

nacular building traditions of the Mediterranean region and

house. The one-story gable-roofed studio building stood paral-

elsewhere.22 It would be a mistake to dismiss this vitally impor-

lel to the street with direct access, and a two-car garage sepa-

tant aspect of early twentieth-century architectural culture, and

rated by a covered gallery was placed perpendicular to it, fram-

in that sense, Rafael de Cárdenas should be recognized for his

ing two sides of the courtyard. The main house at the back was

versatility and contribution to early-modern Cuban architec-

a tall two-story rectangular block with a hipped roof and a trap-

ture. To that end, the editor of Arquitectura, Luis Bay Sevilla,

ezoidal dining room that protruded into the double-story porch

disputable.

BV_Cuba.indb 46

21

16.12.20 18:27


1  The Modern Cuban House

47

House of Augusto Echevarri y Aragón and Anaís Sánchez Culmell, Alturas de Miramar (ca. 1935), exterior view (left).   Rafael de Cárdenas. House of Bernabé Sánchez Batista, Alturas de Miramar ­(ca. 1935), exterior view (right).   Rafael de Cárdenas. House of Hilda Sarrá, Vedado (1934), staircase.

BV_Cuba.indb 47

16.12.20 18:27


48

BV_Cuba.indb 48

16.12.20 18:27


50

Cuban House #1

Eugenio Batista. House of Eugenio Batista, Miramar (1944), street façade.     Eugenio Batista. House of Eugenio Batista, ground floor and first floor plans and exploded axonometric drawing.

Dining Dining room room

Living Living room room

Kitchen Kitchen

Garage Garage

Terrace Terrace

Bedroom Bedroom

Bedroom Bedroom

Bedroom Bedroom

Garage Garage Bedroom Bedroom Bedroom Bedroom

Office Office

0

BV_Cuba.indb 50

5

10m

16.12.20 18:27


1  The Modern Cuban House

BV_Cuba.indb 67

67

16.12.20 18:27


68

Manuel Gutiérrez. Ingelmo residence, Nuevo Vedado (1953), entrance perspective.   Manuel Gutiérrez. Petra Verdera residence, Nuevo Vedado (1955), front façade. A series of reinforced concrete vaults supported by metallic columns float over the Mies-inspired free plan of the house. Tall persianas protect the living room area.   Frank Martínez. House of Isabel and Olga Pérez Farfante, Nuevo Vedado (1955), detail of street façade.

BV_Cuba.indb 68

16.12.20 18:27


83

1  The Modern Cuban House

Humberto Alonso. House of Juan F. Lamas, Reparto Biltmore (1959), front façade.

BV_Cuba.indb 83

Emilio Fernández. House of Avelino González, Güira de Melena, Province of Havana (1955), street façade.

signed private homes, apartments, and commercial buildings.102

well (see Chapter 5). Emilio’s residence for Avelino’s brother

Like the Lamas house by Humberto Alonso, Fernández’s house

Conrado González (ill. p. 84), also in Güira de Melena (1956), has

for the hardware entrepreneur, Avelino González, in the town of

a massive concrete roof that consists of three tapered concrete

Güira de Melena in the Province of Havana (1955, ill. also p. 271),

columns and their associated beams, creating a kind of Y-shaped

has a deep two-story open porch at the front, with an open flight

structure with the upper parts only sloping gradually in a “but-

of stairs, similar to the kind one finds throughout the Caribbean,

terfly” manner. Situated on a lot with very poor soil conditions,

but with a much greater sense of transparency. The minimalist

the three columns were used to reduce the number of footings.

frame is contrasted with the wooden louvers, screens, and rail-

Steel tension rods at the ends of the beams hold the structure

ings. Emilio also designed the furniture and lights for the interior

to the ground in case of hurricanes or other potentially threat-

and painted the abstract mural just off the living room as

ening circumstances. The effect is impressive, as the immense

16.12.20 18:27


84

Emilio Fernández. House of Conrado González, Güira de Melena, Province of Havana (ca. 1956), street façade and plan.

roof hovers above the otherwise simple rectangular box, and it is further pierced in the front to allow light to filter down to the entry patio. Screened walls, and louvered windows and doors give the house a curiously vernacular sensibility. In fact, inside the house the concrete roof slab was also left exposed, with only two coats of clear varnish creating what the architect called a sense of “organic ornamentation.”103 While Quintana’s essay described the structuralist trend as a kind of baroque formalism, there were certainly other modern approaches in Cuba that similarly achieved a strong sense of formalism, and these were not entirely structurally oriented. Curvilinear walls, various kinds of vaults and arches, and hyperbolic paraboloid shapes all contributed to a distinctly plastic approach that was vastly different from the kind of International Style rationalism that was so commonly found in North America and Europe. A good example is Emilio Fernández’s vacation house for Dr. Carlos Manuel González in Varadero (1956), where stucco-covered brick walls are molded to create

BV_Cuba.indb 84

16.12.20 18:27


137

CHAPTER 3

The Modern City: Housing, Civic Infrastructure, and Representation

Memories archived in the minds of people constitute what we call Tradition. It is through them that the history of a country is elaborated, and a Nation is created. When a Nation is created, an identity arises—a way of being—that is marked as a special and unique Culture. These three elements: Tradition, Nation and Culture constitute the Homeland that is portable and always accompanies us.

BV_Cuba.indb 137

Nicolás Quintana

16.12.20 19:00


144

height facing La Rampa and six floors on Calle L, established

façades on the northern side, including the podium of offices

the relation to the street by respecting the urban alignments.

and the apartments above, Quintana and his partners respond-

Second, a thin housing slab, seventeen floors high, seemingly

ed on the western façade with a honeycomb of concrete brise-

floats on a set of pilotis at the level of the roof. As discussed

soleils, oriented vertically and 1.5 meter deep with a glass wall

in the journal Arquitectura, a comparison with the Lever House

behind. On the same façade, the surprising interruption of the

in New York City (1951–1953) is not inappropriate. To be sure,

brise-soleils exposes the setback transparent wall of the second

the two buildings occupied a similar urban condition with an

floor salón de actos and the terrace-patio that seems to break

interior patio, albeit quite small in the Cuban case. The Lever

the limits between interior and exterior. Likewise, the marquise

House accentuated transparency and the diagonal understand-

in the form of an airplane wing that cantilevers on both sides of

ing of the street intersection; the Seguro resolved the corner in

the glass doors marks the entrance. The elegant proportions of

the urban tradition of the Vedado, but the height of its base

the vestibule, accentuated by the spectacular open staircase,

made it more contextual with the overall context. Overall, the

make it one of the most Miesian spaces in Havana.

19

main difference resided in the Seguro’s response to the cli-

According to Philip Goodwin, curator and editor of Brazil

mate, in contrast with the closed, all-glass appearance of the

Builds: Old and New, an important exhibition held at MoMA in

Lever House. To the south, the architects left the backside of

1943, Brazil’s most original contribution to modern architecture

the housing tower as a mostly blank façade, marked by the

was “the control of heat and glare on glass surfaces by means

linear expression of the structure and perforated by concrete

of external blinds.”20 The main Brazilian contribution to modern

panels to illuminate the circulation spaces. To the mostly glazed

architecture—and its supreme achievement in the Ministry of

BV_Cuba.indb 144

16.12.20 19:00


166

BV_Cuba.indb 166

16.12.20 19:01


188

Mario Romañach and Silverio Bosch. Peletería California, Central Havana (1951).

BV_Cuba.indb 188

Mies van der Rohe. Bacardi Headquarters, Santiago de Cuba (1957), interior perspective.

Mies van der Rohe. Bacardi Headquarters, Santiago de Cuba (1957), plan.

16.12.20 19:01


BV_Cuba.indb 212

16.12.20 19:01


213

CHAPTER 4

Tropicality, Tourism, and Leisure

The Tropicana marked the symbolic end of the ‘Havana of the flâneur’… Cabrera Infante’s realist chronicles of the period are full of white and shiny, duck-tailed convertible Cadillacs or black Oldsmobiles hurtling at high speed on the new avenues and highways. The urban ritual of the paseo under the leafy trees has become a thing of the past, it has been substituted by frivolous evenings in dark nightclubs, … or the distant and exclusive beachside clubs, or by the beginning of the consumerist fever in air-conditioned stores.

BV_Cuba.indb 213

Roberto Segre

16.12.20 19:01


217

4  Tropicality, Tourism, and Leisure

mon Cuban denominator between its matter-of-factness

Concrete for Leisure and Sport

and the fantasy of La Tropicana.

Similar in its use of expansive and sensuous forms was the

13

Club Náutico in Playa (1953), a beach club where Borges Here, Hitchcock compared the “fantasy” of the Tropicana to the

demonstrated once again his mastery of concrete. Next to the

rationalism of the Tribunal de Cuentas, with the nightclub repre-

existing club’s 1920s buildings, he designed a series of

senting a more cogent and compelling expression of cubani-

low-vaulted shells that repeated the telescopic effect achieved

dad. This resonated with the use of the space, which would host

at the Tropicana, while their parallel arrangement on the sea-

performers ranging from Carmen Miranda and Josephine Baker

side suggests the movement of the waves and makes the build-

to Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot. As a result, this architecture of

ing appear to float and soar. Likewise, the fenestration along the

playful forms and transparent surfaces, of vast and open curv-

vivid blue arches recalls the waves, as does the use of blue and

ing spaces summoning the sounds and dance of the rumba,

white throughout the building.15 In 1954, Max Borges was invit-

made the club’s visitors equal participants in the spectacle.

ed to design with his brother the restaurant-cabaret Jacaranda

14

Max Borges Recio. Club Náutico, Playa (1953), interior view.

BV_Cuba.indb 217

16.12.20 19:01


218

in the likeness of the Tropicana, to be built in the garden of a nineteenth-century mansion in Mexico City. There he first met with Félix Candela, and the two masters initiated a collaboration that lasted until 1959.16 Borges brought back home some improvement to the technique, particularly in the lightening of the shells and the design of the paraguas, a type of inverted umbrella made up of tree-like columns blossoming into hyperbolic paraboloids, or “hypars.” Borges would use the latter with great effect at the Flores Antilla flower shop (1956, El Vedado) and at the Banco Núñez (1957, Queretajo, Playa). Likewise, architect Hector Carrillo used similar concrete umbrellas for the outdoor gallery at the entrance of the old mansion which was a part of the Tropicana, the Villa Mina. In both cases, the concrete elements stood behind a full glass façade, making them appear almost as a continuation of the public space. In 1957, the brothers Borges along with Félix Candela, designed the tomb and chapel for the Núñez Gálvez family in the Colón cemetery.17 In the image of a tent, the tomb consisted of two hyperbolic paraboloid reinforced concrete thin-shells, connected at the crest. The sepulcher volume that stands at the back of the

Max Borges Recio and Enrique Borges. Flores Antilla (Flower shop), Vedado (1956).   Igor B. Polevitzky. Biltmore Club, Havana (unbuilt).

BV_Cuba.indb 218

16.12.20 19:01


225

4  Tropicality, Tourism, and Leisure

tect José Canavés Ugalde, and the Havana Riviera by Miami-

ble hotels and tropical houses in Miami Beach.30 He worked in

based Igor B. Polevitzky marked the growing influence of Meyer

conjunction with Verner Johnson and Associates, and the Cu-

Lansky on the island.

ban architects Manuel Carrerá Machado and Miguel Gastón.

On the other hand, the Havana Hilton, a joint venture by

Located on the Malecón, the sixteen-story tower rises in solitary

Los Angeles-based architect Welton Becket and the Cuban firm

fashion along an undeveloped section of the seafront. Polevitz-

of Arroyo and Menéndez, was an example of a unique financing

ky distributed the guest rooms within Y-shaped floors, serviced

collaboration. Largely owned by the Caja del Retiro de los Tra-

by an elevator tower, giving the building its idiosyncratic form in

bajadores Gastronómicos (Gastronomical and Catering Work-

the urban landscape.31 Originally, as can be seen on the model,

ers Union) pension fund and operated by the Hilton corpora-

the fully air-conditioned building did not have conventional out-

tion, the tallest hotel in Latin America became a model of

door balconies, but rather its façades were protected by deep

mutually beneficial capitalism and international solidarity at the

projecting floor slabs acting as continuous eyebrows and a se-

height of the Cold War, even as the fear of revolution was em-

ries of screen panels, alternately joined or separate. In its real-

anating from the east end of the island.

ized form, the width of the eyebrows was reduced, the panels

Directly commissioned by Lansky, the Hotel Riviera was in-

were eliminated, and curved balconies appeared at the three

augurated in 1957 and became an instant icon on the Havana

narrow terminations of the building’s wings. At ground level, a

social, tourist, and architectural landscapes. Philip Johnson had

long rectangle structure—containing the lobby, restaurants, sa-

designed an initial version of the project on another site, but

lons, and lounges—was slipped under the pilotis that support

Lansky then gave the

the tower. Next to the lobby entrance, the egg-shaped and gold-

commission to Igor B. Polevitzky, who designed some remarka-

leafed casino structure completed the plastic assemblage of

resigned facing his client’s requests.

BV_Cuba.indb 225

28

29

16.12.20 19:02


240

BV_Cuba.indb 240

16.12.20 19:02


BV_Cuba.indb 250

16.12.20 19:05


251

CHAPTER 5

The Synthesis of the Arts

The 1940s marked the classical phase of Cuban modernism, when a new generation of artists, along with some of the preceding ones, moved toward a more intimate expression of the Cuban ethos.

BV_Cuba.indb 251

Juan A. MartĂ­nez

16.12.20 19:05


258

Another major public structure that integrated works of

Enrique Caravía, Artes clásicas y las contemporáneas (The classical arts and the contemporary), Museo de Bellas Artes (1954), mosaic.

fine art was the Tribunal de Cuentas building by Aquiles Capablanca (1953), with a geometric ceramic-tile mural by Amelia Peláez appropriately titled Abstracción (Abstraction), and a large copper and bronze sculpture by Domingo Ravenet titled Integridad (Integrity), a reference to the judges who worked inside.36 The building received the Gold Prize from the College of Architects in 1954 and was included in the MoMA exhibition, Latin American Architecture since 1945, curated by Henry-Russell Hitchcock. Hitchcock noted in the exhibition press release that among the main characteristics of Latin American architecture, there was “[m]ore use of color, either painted stucco, or mosaic, etc., than anywhere else in the world.”37 To that end, his account of the Tribunal de Cuentas described the Amelia Peláez mural as “bold,” and hinted that it improved the quality of the building by adding interest to its predominantly utilitarian design.38

BV_Cuba.indb 258

16.12.20 19:05


259

5  The Synthesis of the Arts

BV_Cuba.indb 259

The College of Architects had been an integral part of the

contained within its circular gallery, eight sports-themed mu-

architectural community of Cuba since its formation in 1933,

rals by López Dirube, that depicted judo, fencing, equestrian-

and regularly held small exhibitions of architecture and fine art,

ism, gymnastics, acrobatics, basketball, boxing, and track and

and competitions for interdisciplinary projects. In 1956, Agustín

field.41 The murals, all completed in 1958, measured 3.5 by 7

Fernández, a member of the progressive group “Los Once,”

meters. Both abstract, in a cubist sense, and figurative to con-

won a competition to produce a large indoor-outdoor, ceram-

vey the various sports, they achieved a dynamism that perfect-

ic-tile mural (ill. p. 261) on the lower floor of the college’s head-

ly complements the many harried visitors who race around the

quarters in the Vedado.39 Completed the following year, the

concourse in search of their seats.

mural contains abstract figures and floral shapes in bright

Finally, theaters proved to be fertile ground for the synthe-

blues, reds and greens, and stretches across the continuous

sis of the arts. Eugenio Batista included sculptures from his

wall of the cafeteria and the outdoor patio. Also, in 1957, Rolan-

cousin, Rita Longa, in the renovation of the Teatro Payret in the

do López Dirube painted a 5 by 15 meters vinyl chloride mural

Parque Central of the Murallas district, that he carried out in

for the college that included a series of cubist figures, both

collaboration with Adolfo Arellano, in 1951.42 Longa had previ-

human and animal, geometric shapes, and various architectur-

ously worked with Batista on an apartment building (ill. p. 260)

al symbols.40

on 9th Street in the Vedado (1946), where she designed a series

The Palacio de los Deportes (Sports Palace) in the Ciudad

of wave-like stone balcony railings.43 The works at the Teatro

Deportiva (City of Sports) by Arroyo and Menéndez (1955–1957)

Payret included a bronze statue of “Illusion” in the entry vesti-

16.12.20 19:05


316

BIOGRAPHIES The history of Cuban modernism could not be written without mentioning the lives of the various architects, artists, and designers—the so-called Generación de los cincuenta (Generation of the Fifties)—who were active from the late 1930s until 1959 in Cuba, and then as revolutionary architects and educators, or in exile abroad. These individuals sought to combine Cuban identity and traditions with the tenets of international modernism, in a country that was late to embrace modernity, increasingly under American influence, and on the verge of revolutionary changes. They reinvented their architectural practice within the respective cultural and professional contexts yet were often able to spread the essence of Cuban culture to countries such as the United States (particularly Florida), Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, France, Spain, and others. As the architectural avant-garde in Cuba, these architects represent the transnational and transcultural aspects of mid-twentieth century Cuban architecture around the world. The following

Inauguration of the exhibition Latin American Architecture since 1945 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. To the left, the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and his wife. To the right, the architect Max Borges Recio and his wife. In the background, the Arcos de Cristal.

biographies are intended to provide a human face to many of the individuals considered throughout the book. The list is of course incomplete, but we sincerely hope that it will inspire others to tell their stories and add to the rich tapestry that makes up Cuban modernism.

Alonso, Humberto Humberto Alonso (March 17, 1924, Candelaria, Pinar Del Río –

Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico (1969–1972). He moved to Miami

September 12, 2018, Miami) graduated from the University of

in 1969 and formed a partnership with Pelayo Fraga and

Havana School of Architecture in 1948. He then started his ar-

worked in collaboration with Henry Gutiérrez, a member of

chitectural practice in Havana designing private homes, apart-

the Arquitectos Unidos, on One Biscayne Tower (1969–1972). In

ments, commercial buildings, hospitals and campus plans. He

1980 Humberto formed “Architectura Totalis” with his son,

was the founding architect of the Arquitectos Unidos, a collab-

Humberto Alonso Jr., also an architect, a partnership that lasted

orative group of architectural students led by Humberto (1953–

seven years. In 1987, Humberto resumed a private practice

1955), responsible for among other projects, the College of

with a select group of clients and at age eighty-five retired from

Architects Office Building in the Vedado (1953–1955), and the

professional work.

Instituto Edison in La Víbora (1954–1955). He worked for the Junta de Planificación (1955–1959) where he collaborated with

Álvarez, Raúl

Mario Romañach and Pelayo Fraga in the development of the

Raúl Álvarez (February 11, 1930, Havana – April 30, 2020, Orlan-

Plan Regulador de La Habana. He also taught at the University

do, FL) studied architecture at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Insti-

of Havana from 1959–1960. During this time, he produced one

tute in New York, receiving a Bachelor of Architecture in 1951.

of his most important works in Cuba, the design of the Ciudad

Soon after he returned to Havana and joined the firm of Arroyo

Universitaria José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE), a project com-

and Menéndez architects, working on the National Theater of

pleted by José Fernández, Fernando Salinas, Josefina Mon-

Cuba, while revalidating his architectural degree at the Univer-

talván, and others in 1964. In 1961 he sought political asylum

sity of Havana (1953). In 1954 he established his private prac-

and left Cuba, subsequently working in Puerto Rico and Wash-

tice working with Richard Neutra and Roberto Burle Marx on

ington D.C. where he developed a substantial body of work in

the Alfred de Schulthess residence (1956), a work that received

multi-family and multi-user projects, most notably Cobian’s

the Gold Medal from the College of Architects in 1958. In 1956

BV_Cuba.indb 316

16.12.20 19:06


342

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Victor Deupi, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the University of Miami School of Architecture. His research focuses on the art and architecture of the Early Modern Spanish and Ibero-American world, and mid-twentieth-century Cuba. His books include Architectural Temperance: Spain and Rome, 1700–1759 (Routledge 2015), Transformations in Classical Architecture: New Directions in Research and Practice (Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, 2018), Emilio Sanchez in New York and Latin America (Routledge, 2020), and Stables: High Design for Horse and Home and Wineries of the World: Architecture and Viticulture, both with Oscar Riera Ojeda (Rizzoli, 2021). Dr. Deupi was also the President of the CINTAS Foundation dedicated to promoting Cuban art and culture from 2016–2018. Jean-François Lejeune, Ph.D., is a professor of architecture, urban design, and history at the University of Miami School of Architecture. His research ranges from Latin American architecture and urbanism to twentieth-century vernacular modernism in Spain and Italy. His publications include The Making of Miami Beach 1933–1942: The Architecture of Lawrence Murray Dixon (Rizzoli, 2001), Cruelty and Utopia: Cities and Landscapes of Latin America (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005), Sitte, Hegemann, and the Metropolis (Routledge, 2009), Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean: Vernacular Dialogues and Contested Identities (Routledge, 2010), Nord-Sud: L’architettura moderna e il Mediterraneo (ListLab, 2016), and Rural Utopia and Water Urbanism: The Modern Village in Franco’s Spain (DOM publishers, 2021). He is the secretary of DoCOMOMO-US/ Florida and was an Affiliated Fellow at the American Academy in Rome in 2007. Silvia Ros is a Cuban-American, Miami-based photographer with a master’s degree in architecture. After over a decade as a museum photographer, she launched a busy freelance career, concentrating not only on her own creative projects such as Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality, Post 67, and Concrete Miami but serving as the official Art Basel Miami Beach photographer for five years, and with clients including Ford, Artsy, and Instagram. In 2014, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History acquired eighty-six of her photographs documenting the LGBTQ movement in the United States. The photography for Cuban Modernism was funded by the Knight Foundation and Oolite Arts.

BV_Cuba.indb 342

16.12.20 19:06


For several decades in the 20th century, modern archi-

Joseph Rykwert

Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania

tecture thrived in Cuba, and a wealth of buildings was realized prior to the revolution of 1959 and in its wake. The designs comprise luxurious nightclubs and stylish

well-suited to life in the tropics. The publication high-

Barry Bergdoll

lights virtually unknown and previously inaccessible

Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History

visual material, both from university and family archives.

Columbia University

apartment complexes, both on the island and abroad. Drawing on the vernacular, these architects defined a way to be modern and Cuban at the same time—creating an architecture oscillating between avantgarde and tradition. Audacious concrete shells, curving ramps, arresting brise-soleils, a fluidity of interior and exterior spaces, impressive murals and other integrated works of art are

The stunning contemporary photographs were taken specially for the book and new drawings were prepared for it. A biographical survey portrays forty of the most important Cuban architects and artists of the era.

www.birkhauser.com

Victor Deupi Jean-François Lejeune

characteristic of an airy, often colorful architecture

For the decades on either side of its 1959 political revolution, Cuba was a laboratory of architectural and urban planning experiments. With a stunning assembly of historic photographs and original architectural drawings, Cuban Modernism offers a fascinating reading of architectural developments as a complex dialogue between traditions and innovations on an island at the crossroads between North and South America. After 1959, Cuban architects carried these innovations with them to Caracas and Puerto Rico, to the US and France.

hotels, sports facilities, elegant private homes and

Cuban Modernism

If you are inclined to consider Cuba a provincial outpost of modernity, Deupi and Lejeune will soon put you right. From the early thirties Cuba had both modernist and traditionalist periodicals. Its students uniquely held a public burning of Vignola’s handbook in 1944 and welcomed, as did their teachers, visits from Neutra, Gropius, Sert’s prolonged working stay, and an aborted scheme by Mies. Deupi and Lejeune offer an unrivalled— balanced and fair—survey of the island’s architectural story over a dramatic half-century and more.

Victor Deupi Jean-François Lejeune

Cuban Modernism

Mid-Century Architecture 1940 –1970