By: Sheyla Paz - Cuba Travel Expert Cuba, a country that seams dormant in time but so full of history and eclectic architecture. Once falling apart because of lack of maintenance, now it has become once again one of the most visited countries in the Caribbean.
The architecture of the country dates back to the Spanish era when Cuba was a colony of Spain. Throughout the country and in every mayor city, the different styles of architecture can be appreciated. Some more than others but even in its ruins you can see some of the styles from castles to nymphs. In Cuba, you can see Renaissance style buildings such as “Castillo de la Real Fuerza” built in 1577. Built in a typical four-point Renaissance found plan modeled after structures in Seville, the “Castle of the Royal Force” is the oldest stone fortress in the Americas. Atop its west tower is a bronze weathervane called “La Giraldilla.” The female figure, holding a cross in one hand and a palm tree trunk in the other, is a symbol of Havana. The Baroque style architecture can be seen in the most popular church of Cuba, La Catedral de la Habana, built in 1777. Featuring an undulating facade flanked by bell towers of unequal size, the majestic church once believed to have housed the remains of Christopher Columbus, is among Havana’s most visited landmarks and one of the oldest cathedrals in the hemisphere.
The Neoclassical style was very common for the rich such as the Aldama Palace which was built in 1844 for Spanish Merchant Domingo de Aldama. This is a two story mansion with a massive stone structure which is the city’s most lavish residence. Today it hosts the Cuban History Institute and it style represents some of the European elements such as pilasters, porticos and columned windows.
The Art Nouveau style can be easily found in Cuba for its distinctive leaf-shaped side windows, Moorish balconies and doors carved in flower motifs in its buildings. Many were designed by Catalan architect Mario Rotllant, a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi.
Ernest Hemingway must have loved living in the Ambos Mundos hotel which today serves as a tourist attraction because his old room at the hotel is open to the public as a museum. The Ambos Mundos building has an Eclectic design and it was built in 1924. A patische of various architectural styles, from Neo-classical to Art-Deco, the millennial pink, sets on the heart of old Havana by the bay.
Everyone that visits Cuba, always talk about the Cuban rum and how much they love it and probably don’t know that the former headquarter of the Bacardi Rum is an Art Deco style structure. Yes, the Bacardi Building in Havana was built in 1930 and it’s a 12 story sky-scraper, the first in Havana, and today it’s an office building designed by a team of Cuban Architects. The building facade is granite with terra-cotta reliefs of nymphs designed by Maxfield Parrish. On top is a stepped pyramid capped by a brass bat, the logo of Bacardi.
Today, Old Havana doesn’t look that old after the facelift given by the office of the Havana Historian Eusebio Leal. A lot of the buildings have been restored and painted and more tourism have been attracted to this area. Although, there is still a lot to get done in Cuba in general to rebuild the country, it’s efforts to keep the history alive can’t go unnoticed.
There is an amazing article about Eusebio Leal on the Smithsonian Magazine (The Exploration Issue) and how he became the Havana historian and his work on the city restoration. It’s a ten pages long article but it’s totally worth your time to read it. Much of this information about the Cuban Architecture can be found in that article as well.