When roaming the streets of Cuba, one can see architectural masterpieces ranging from the sixteenth century all the way to modern day. The city of Havana, Cuba is one of the most architecturally eclectic areas. The streets of Cuba tell the history of this Latin American country.
Many of the buildings of Cuba were inspired by outside influences. For example, some of the earliest building feature Spanish-Moorish designs which were brought to Cuba by Spanish colonizers in the sixteenth century. Some of the architectural designs that were popular at this time were patios, artistic tiles, and fountains. These ideas were adapted to fit the Cuban climate. Exposed patios were converted into covered “portales” and beautiful tinted glass windows, “vitrales”, were fitted above doorways to filter the tropical sun rays. The rise of slave trade and the popularity of sugar plantations brought about the construction of grand colonial mansions such as the Hostel Conde de Villanueve in Old Havana, which is now a hotel.
In the eighteenth century, the style of Cuban Baroque was created. A reference to the earlier Baroque movement in Italy and Europe, the Cuban version was more streamlined since the construction was mostly done by a large slave force. Many public buildings were created in this style.
Throughout the nineteenth century, architecture was inspired by French styles. Due to an influx of French immigrants Cuba now had many Neoclassical buildings with crisp structures, columns, and pastel colors.
In the early twentieth century Cuba was a major sugar-cane producer and a rich country. Architecture reflected the opulence of this time as large architectural projects were undertaken. Many buildings were influenced by the United States, such as the Capitolio Nacional.
Finally, art deco and eclectic architecture became popular in the late twentieth century. Edificio Bacardi, formerly the Havana headquarters of the popular rum company, is an example of the art deco style that was popular in the 1920s.
Eclectic architecture broke boundaries of architecture in the 1920s and 30s. Families made rich off of their sugar trade competed to create the most beautiful and elaborate residencies.
Although the rise of Communist leadership has stunted the growth and development of new architectural design and the harsh environment has made maintaining these historical buildings difficult, Cubans have persevered. With lessening restrictions on real estate and a relinquished travel ban with the United States, the vibrancy of Cuba is slowly returning. Soon a walk through Cuba will be the best way to travel back in time.