A Tour of Havana's Art Deco Architecture

Posted: 24-Jun-16 11:13

In showcasing various examples of Art Deco architecture, CNN Travel recently offered readers a visual tour of some of Cuba's most significant treasures. Influenced by trends from across the globe, many of these buildings still stand today, as efforts expand to preserve and promote the artistic designs.

A Tour of Havana's Art Deco Architecture

Distinguished by their geometric shapes, smooth lines and at times splashy colours, the Art Deco buildings of Cuba flaunt the country’s colourful past while bringing attention to necessary efforts to preserve the architectural designs for generations to come.

Constructed mostly in the 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco designs became popular all over the world in the emerging Jazz Age, post-World War I. For Cuba, the greatest examples of the Art Deco movement materialized during the rule of president General Gerardo Machado from 1925 to 1933, as buildings across Havana adopted Art Deco features, blending them with African symbolism and tropical elements.

The Cuban capital City of Havana to this day displays some of the most compelling examples on the planet, as the trend influenced the integration of architecture, the visual arts, fashion and interior design. CNN Travel recently published a series of 12 pictures by photographer Daniel Allen in detailing examples of Cuban Art Deco from private homes to theatres.

In a whimsical showing, a photograph of the Edificio Lopez Serrano provides details on the building’s ornately embellished exterior. At home in the Vedado neighbourhood, the 1932 building was built for a Cuban media mogul, identifiable by its uniquely designed window recesses in a zigzag design. Heading inside, the incredible lobby retains its magical appeal, with marble walls and cubic-shaped lampshades. The focal point of the lobby is the El Tiempo relief. Designed by a local graphic artist it represents the official logo of the 2013 Art Deco Congress, an annual gathering of Art Deco enthusiasts held in Cuba that year for the first time ever.

The chosen photographs also include what was once the tallest building in Cuba. First opened in 1930, the 12-story Edificio Bacardi building is topped by a bell tower, showcased fully in a photograph from a rooftop terrace across the street. A series of close-ups show the intricate detail both inside and out, including the Art Deco motifs of its European lobby and modern designs plus the building’s exterior, with its ornate tiles and trim. Another inside close-up shows a slick gold elevator door in the same building, alongside the very top of the building, accented by the Bacardi emblem and traces of the magnificently coloured bricks that make up the tower.

The article makes a point of showcasing that some of the Art Deco-style buildings are in need of repairs. While residents have helped pay for repairs at Edificio Lopez Serrano it does still need some work. Groups like Habana Deco are acknowledged as making an effort to help protect and promote this part of Cuban heritage across the city. Its director also holds a prominent position with the National Museum of Decorative Arts. Photographs of the museum include one of an Art Deco-style bathroom, set amidst the surroundings of a 1920s-era villa.

In giving examples of places currently under renovation, the photographer showcases two separate theatres. Known as the first air-conditioned theatre in Havana, photographs of Teatro Fausto emphasize the building’s simplistically designed façade and metal tubes, which run the entire length of the building. Currently under construction again, the theatre was redesigned in 1938 after its original construction in 1915. With contrasting curves on the inside and clean lines on the outside, Teatro America is noted for its circular-shaped terrazzo floor and a double curved staircase. Closed right now for renovations, the theatre opened in 1941.

The neighbouring Rodriguez Vasquez apartment building provides inspiration for another close-up, with a curved design of dark blue and white tiles on the floor, accompanied by Art Deco-style ironwork on the double doors leading to a main entrance. As for an example of an Art Deco building that has seen recent renovations, a single photograph shows the exterior of La Moderna Poesia, a bookstore in Havana. It was first designed in the mid 1930s.

Another photograph shows people looking over an intricately designed concrete balcony. The beautiful example of an Art Deco design exists as part of the Almacenes Ultra department store, topped with apartments. Finally, a religious setting that embodies the spirit of Art Deco is the Miguel de Soto Methodist Church. Described as an “outsized wedding cake”, the church is an example of how Art Deco entered religious architecture starting in the 1930s.

The best way to see any of these amazing examples of Art Deco architecture is to include them on a tour. While some of the buildings are in need of repairs, there are many examples that have continued to stand throughout Cuban history.


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