||Havana: Art deco museum
TXT: YOSS PHOTO: ANDREW MOORE
Few cities have been able to preserve intact their most precious architectural heritage from various periods and styles. Uniquely in the Americas, Havana has not seen almost all its 20th century buildings sacrificed to the development and speculation of the 1970s and 1980s.
At the beginning of the Republic, imitation of foreign models left the capital with a Mannerist and French influence. Later, the international style presented by the US presence was considered too cold and inexpressive, and various Cuban avant garde architects tried to adapt to the island’s conditions by going to the very roots of “Cubanness” to create a national architectural language.
One of the characteristics of art deco is the strong element of geometry: the straight line, the cube, the sphere, the ubiquitous zigzag and the intersection of lines with circles. More than an architectural movement, it was a whole decorative style. By the 1930s, though many Cuban homes still retained their traditional high doorways, the floors, cornices, soffits, metalwork, windows, doors and gardens were already unmistakably art deco.
Some of the works most representative of Cuban architecture and interior design are by Mario Romañach, Frank Martínez, Arquímedes Poveda and other members of the Cuban Modern Movement (1940-1950),
The paradigm of Deco in Cuba was the América theatre, designed by Fernando Martínez Campos and Pascual Reyes in 1941. With a marked influence of New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the theatre stood out for the elegance of its curved interior lines and the richness of its materials from the floor tiles to the furniture and decoration.
Luckily, the greater part of all this luxury has been preserved so far.
+ information pág. 62-67 The H Book 2007 08