Havana's Remarkable Architecture
Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Along a Havana street. Photograph by H. Barbara Weinberg
«Havana is a beautiful city that reflects Cuba's complex social, political, and economic history in its distinguished and varied architecture. Although many neighborhoods are gritty and numerous buildings await restoration, the urban fabric is fairly breathtaking.» It includes imposing late sixteenth-century harbor fortifications that recall the city's importance as a transshipment point between Europe and the Americas; the dramatic mid-eighteenth-century baroque San Cristóbal Cathedral; extraordinary neoclassical mansions built by sugar and coffee magnates; a monumental National Capitol Building, commissioned in 1926 in emulation of the U.S. Capitol; and Beaux-Arts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Soviet-modernist commercial and residential buildings set in a lucid grid of streets and boulevards. In Old Havana, the astonishing visual variety is tempered by distinctive street-level arcades that unify the panoply of styles and afford pedestrians respite from the blazing sun.