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Havana's Remarkable Architecture

H. Barbara Weinberg, Curator Emerita of American Paintings and Sculpture, The American Wing

Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Along a Havana street

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.

Department(s): The American Wing, Development
Tag(s): Cuba, architecture

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About the Author

H. Barbara Weinberg is curator emerita of American paintings and sculpture in The American Wing. She joined the department as curator in 1990 and was elected the Alice Pratt Brown Curator in 1998. She has organized many exhibitions, written numerous Metropolitan Museum catalogues, independent books, articles, and essays, and has received honors that include the 2007 Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.

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