By Jose Oliva
BARCELONA – Cuban and Spanish architects in Barcelona expressed the need to save both the colonial and modern architecture of Havana and not focus entirely on the old colonial district.
Under the title “Arquitecturas de Ida y Vuelta” (Architectures on a Round Trip), the Catalonia College of Architects organized between Dec. 10-13 the 33rd edition of its International Architectural Heritage Days.
During the event, Spanish architect Rafael Moneo was to unveil the remodeling of the Hotel Packard in Havana’s Paseo del Prado, where celebrities like Marlon Brando and Ruben Dario stayed in the 1950s.
The Cuban architect, historian and critic Eduardo Luis Rodriguez said in an interview with Efe that “at this time, awareness of the people and of the government with regard to the architectural preservation of Old Havana is guaranteed in Cuba,” though he acknowledged that “there are problems from a financial point of view.”
For Rodriguez, a preeminent authority on Cuban architecture, “the big problem isn’t Old Havana and its colonial heritage, but the part of the city outside it and the heritage of the 20th century, which is as valuable as the colonial heritage.”
The Cuban architect considers it necessary to take a plan similar to the one for Old Havana and extend it to other areas of the city, where there are numerous examples of Catalan modernism.
For that reason Rodriguez said that “if we save Old Havana, we’ll only have won a battle but not the war.”
Surrounding Old Havana are buildings of all periods of the 20th century, “from art nouveau to the so-called eclectic period, influenced by the School of Fine Arts in Paris, and the architecture of the modernist movement after World War II up to the 1960s.”
The architect Ricardo Porro talked specifically about the restoration of one of these iconic modernist buildings, the School of Plastic Arts and Modern Dance, one of the first to be built after the Cuban Revolution.
The Cuban critic warned that “many of these modernist buildings are being lost due to deterioration and unnecessary modifications.”
Among the other architects to present projects during the event were Jose Maria Churtichaga and Cayetana de la Quadra Salcedo, both from Madrid, who are working on the expansion of the Spanish consulate in Havana.
The coordinator of the event, Josep Maria Fortia, told Efe that the title of the symposium had to do with “the Catalan and Spanish architecture that marched to the Caribbean, above all to Cuba.” EFE