Posts tagged with "Cuba":

Liquid La Habana: Ice Cream, Rum, Waves, Sweat and Spouts

April 9–May 11, 2018 Exhibition Opening: April 9, 5–6pm Princeton University School of Architecture The Princeton University School of ArchitectureMedia + Modernity ProgramProgram in Latin American Studies, and Mellon Initiative announce the opening of LIQUID LA HABANA: ICE CREAM, RUM, WAVES, SWEAT AND SPOUTS curated by Beatriz ColominaIvan L. Munuera, and Bart-Jan Polman and designed by Diana Cristobal and KnitKnot Architecture. The exhibition research team includes Ingrid Brioso Rieumont, Gillian Shaffer and Eda Yetim. Graphic design by Fru*Fru. Architecture in La Habana, Cuba is usually understood from the point of view of colonialism, whether Spanish or North-American, Cold War politics, or tourist economies and ideologies. But it could also be seen as generating wholly new points of view – more fluid and less familiar. Liquid La Habana presents 5 different case studies from the late 19th century until today and challenges their common interpretations. The exhibition explores the ways in which these fluid projects of ICE CREAM, RUM, WAVES, SWEAT AND SPOUTS reshuffle social contracts, radically confronting ideas of modernity, society, economy, sexuality, privacy, diplomacy, aesthetics, geopolitics, race, and development. [1] Coppelia, the ICE CREAM parlor of 1966 that became a symbol of the new revolutionary society, is discussed as a laboratory in which the creation of a new species, the “Ubre Blanca,” a super cow that would produce more milk than any cow before, went hand in hand with international agreements and socioeconomic aspects. [2] Mies van der Rohe’s unbuilt 1957 project for a Bacardi Building in Santiago de Cuba is not presented as the work of an international architect that created a decontextualized object for promoting RUM, but for how it was closely tied to La Habana’s existing architecture and led several afterlives around the world, reshaping the architect. [3] The Malecón, La Habana’s 5 mile long sea walk begun in 1901, is an engineering work of both concrete and silicon, a Wi-Fi spot in which the notion of public space has been redefined by electronic WAVES and the public sphere has been extended through the paquete semanal (a weekly terabyte of digital information). [4] The Tropicana Night Club is not simply a glistening stage for tourist entertainment, but a place where the bodies in motion and SWEAT relocate the conception of political architecture in a simultaneously capitalist and socialist spectacle. [5] The National Schools of Arts deployed the sensuality of waterworks and forms, such as the so called “vulva” SPOUT, as a controversial architectural symbol of revolution.
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Latin American cities at the turn of the century go on view at the Americas Society

Starting March 21, the Americas Society will host the exhibition The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930. The exhibition is a leading feature of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an exploration of Latino and Latin American art across 70 cultural institutions in Southern California. Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is an initiative led by the Getty Research Institute, where The Metropolis in Latin America was previously on display. The exhibition presents a century-long narrative of six Latin American capitals: Buenos Aires, Havana, Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago de Chile. Within this arc of time, these cities transformed from provincial seats of power in the Spanish empire to full-fledged republican capitals. This shift from Iberian urban regulations to independent national authority was expressed through a diverse set of novel and imported models of architectural design and urban planning. The cities of Latin America maintained most of their colonial structures until the mid-nineteenth century. The gradual adoption of modern architectural repertoires, coupled with massive rural migration to the cities, encouraged the removal of colonial-era vestiges in favor of new civic buildings, burgeoning residential quarters and centers of industrial production. Cocurated by Maristella Casciato and Idurre Alonso, The Metropolis in Latin America will display the dramatic transformation of these six Latin American capitals in a number of mediums, including maps, plans, prints and photographs. The historical scope of featured pieces range from Hernan Cortes’ Map of Tenochtitlan (1524) to the modernist utopia depicted in Le Corbusier’s drawings of the City of Buenos Aires (1929).
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Exhibition showcases 60 years of a Cuban-American painter’s exploration of vernacular architecture

The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). You can see all those articles on this page. Here, Senior Editor Matt Shaw’s editorial from that issue highlights what we’ve explored in the Sunshine State.

Emilio Sanchez in South Florida Collections marks the artist’s first show in South Florida in over a decade. The Cuban-American painter’s work is largely centered on his time in Cuba and the Caribbean and, later on, in New York City. His paintings depict the vernacular of his surroundings, often finding inspiration in existing structures and scenes and transforming them into abstract and surreal portraits. “His keen eye and remarkable ability to edit out incidental elements and details imbue the work with a dreamlike quality, as if the buildings he depicted existed in a parallel universe born of memory, longing, and imagination,” said co-curator Victor Deupi, an architecture scholar, in an interview with Cuban Art News. The exhibition encompasses six decades of Sanchez’s professional career, displaying paintings from the 1940s through the 1990s. Alongside his paintings, the museum will display sketchbooks, doodles, and other personal documents to paint a better picture, if you will, of this artist’s prolific work.

EMILIO SANCHEZ IN SOUTH FLORIDA COLLECTIONS Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami 1301 Stanford Drive Coral Gables, Florida Through May 21, 2017

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A new book explores Bacardi’s use of architecture going back to the 1800s

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

From its 1862 origins in Santiago, Cuba, Bacardi has grounded its identity through architecture—whether in utilitarian distilleries and factories or in more aesthetic offices and showrooms. Allan Shulman’s Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity traces the beverage empire’s affair with design beginning in 1800s Cuba, its migrations to the United States and throughout Latin America, and into new facilities in Europe after the turn of the century. Throughout these moves, Shulman contends that the company’s image and brand determinedly combined contemporary and vernacular elements.

Shulman lays the foundations for Bacardi’s architectural ambitions in the competition for the Bacardi Building in Havana. Located in the colonial heart of the capital, the building took a turn for the modern in 1930 when the winning architects, Esteban Rodríguez-Castells and Rafael Fernández Ruenes, changed the facade during construction from Renaissance Revival to a more contemporary art deco. Yet distinctly Cuban elements were incorporated, such as leaded glass, louvered windows, and local colors and patterns, to provide the building with a local identity. A visual landmark, the tower’s predominant function was the tasting room, a cocktail bar that catered to the largely American Prohibition-era clientele.

In post-Prohibition New York in 1933, this modern vernacular mix imbibed a Cuban flavor. Morris Sanders designed the new Bacardi Bar, which would take up space in the historic New York Club. The bar featured white leather focal points in an otherwise dark space, with a backdrop of a somewhat satirical mural by William Gropper to drive home the Cuban sensibility. A similar tactic was employed in 1938 for the Bacardi Room in the Empire State Building. Designed by Franklin Hughes, the space on the 35th floor was inwardly focused, with wooden screens blocking outside views; in their place, a mural by Antonio Gattorno, Waiting for Coffee, depicted a pastoral scene of sugar cane fields.

While Bacardi’s architectural style vacillates from utilitarian to expressive, it was never left to chance. Bacardi created its facilities by interpreting the local style through modern design and construction, a hybrid that often resulted from mixing local and international architects. Much of this mix appears in the wonder years of 1944 to 1977 when Bacardi was led by Jose Mario “Pepin” Bosch, who thought of himself more as a patron than a client. The breadth of architects and designers included under his reign certainly attests to this.

Native Cubans led the early work. Enrique Luis Varela designed the Modelo brewery near Havana and laboratories in Santiago in 1948. Ermina Odoardo-Ricardo Eguilior Arquitectos designed an addition to a plant in Santiago in the 1950s, as well as the Bacardi International Limited Building in Bermuda in 1972. In 1954 Sáenz, Cancio & Martín (SACMAG), appearing as both design engineer-architect and architect of record throughout Bosch’s tenure, developed a master plan for the new headquarters near Santiago along the central highway for its “modernity, mobility, and connectedness,” themes that pervaded Bacardi’s ethos. In 1956–57, Bosch commissioned Philip Johnson for a private residence and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for an administrative building. Both went unbuilt under Cuba’s growing political tensions. Shulman argues that the Mies van der Rohe’s design reappeared somewhat modified as the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

Though aligned with the Cuban Revolution, by 1960 the company’s assets in Cuba had been nationalized, and Bacardi exiled. But, in 1936, Bacardi had expanded to Puerto Rico to capitalize on being in a U.S. territory as Prohibition ended. A new campus with the main plant designed by Toro y Ferrer Arquitectos was constructed there in 1954. Construction increased after exile, including an expressive canopy-structure pavilion by SACMAG in 1962, and the Foyer Museum and Bottling Plant in 1965 by Miguel Rosich and Ignacio Carrera-Justiz. Félix Candela was tapped for an unbuilt warehouse design. Instead, he completed multiple commissions in Mexico. In Tulatitán, Mexico, Mies van der Rohe, with SACMAG as the architect of record, designed the company’s administrative building in 1958.

One of Bacardi’s more dynamic duos appears in Miami. In 1963, SACMAG’s seven-story Bacardi Imports Tower rose as a small service core to support a large truss from which the rest of the building hangs. An antithesis of the modern corporate office building, the lobby was moved to the second floor and the plaza level was a gallery. Shulman points out a striking similarity in the urban plan of the tower set back in a public plaza to Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building completed in 1958. A decade later, a smaller “mushroom” building—an administration annex—designed by Carrera-Justiz appeared. The tower was faced with dark glass on the longer sides, while the short sides featured blue and white stone and tile murals. The annex took this a step further and faced the entire building with hammered colored glass set in epoxy. The design by Johannes Dietz gives the mural a magical lantern effect.

Following Bosch’s retirement in 1976, Bacardi focused on its individual brands and new acquisitions. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that attention to facility design reemerged. Bacardi began renovating historical structures as it had done in the past, with a hospital in Puerto Rico in 1939 and a Spanish monastery in 1975. With new renovations in Juillac-le-Coq, France, and Aberfeldy, Scotland, the most spectacular of the new era is Heatherwick Studio’s renovation and glasshouse enclosures for the Bombay Sapphire distillery on the site of former mills in Laverstoke, England. Here, the modern and vernacular complement more than mix.

The portfolio-sized book shows what it tells. Full-color photos, drawings, historical documents and Bacardi paraphernalia follow the text. However, calling it a coffee or cocktail table book would do little service to Shulman’s research, which is thorough without being too technical for non-architects. The design coverage is comprehensive, yet succinct. The large images make it easy to flip across the book’s geographic organization, and a timeline is included. While the history of Bacardi is shown broadly, those wanting more are directed by an extensive set of endnotes and bibliography.

Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity Allan Shulman, Rizzoli, $60.00

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As Cuba’s economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Preservation efforts aimed at recognizing and restoring Cuba’s storied architectural relics—long a pet project within professional and academic circles—might finally become mainstream as the country adopts market-based policies.

The implications of these economic and political changes for Cuba’s cultural heritage—much of which suffers from decades of deferred maintenance—are potentially vast and unknown. Architect Belmont Freeman, who has led many tours to Cuba on behalf of Docomomo and the Society of Architectural Historians, said, “There are a lot of cranes in Havana right now, every one of them related to a hotel project.”

Recent years have seen a ballooning interest in Cuba by international hoteliers. European luxury-hotel group Kempinski is set open its first hotel in Cuba this summer. The hotel will feature 246 rooms in the renovated Manzana de Gómez building, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was designed as Cuba’s first shopping mall in 1910. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is also entering Cuba by taking over operations of Havana’s neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, the Hotel Quinta Avenida, and the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel. The move makes Starwood the first United States hotelier to enter the Cuban market since 1959. Hotel Quinta Avenida was renovated in 2016 and opened last summer. The Hotel Inglaterra, originally built in 1844, is expected to open in late 2017 after its renovation.

Real questions exist, however, not only in terms of the quality of these renovations, but also with regard to the status of other cultural, archeological, and architectural artifacts in the country. Cuba is home to a vast array of architectural history, including relics and sites important to the indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the island. However, colonial-era fortifications and more recent building stock, including successive waves of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century development, make up the vast majority of structures across the country. What will happen to those less prominent and more sensitive relics? Many of the city’s inner neighborhoods are filled with eclectic Beaux Arts–style structures, while the outer city and its environs are a hotbed of proto- and early-modernism, with works like the Hotel Nacional by McKim, Mead & White from 1930 and the Habana Libre Hotel by Welton Becket with Lin Arroyo and Gabriela Menendez from 1958 standing out both in terms of architectural style and for their respective roles in local and international history.

Furthermore, the Revolution’s communist utopianism was codified through the prodigious production of radically progressive works of architecture by Cuban modernist architects. Those works include the expressionist National Schools of Art by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto Gottardi from 1961; the Brutalist Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE) building by Humberto Alonso from 1961; and the vast neighborhoods of Habana del Este that are made up of locally derived designs modeled after Soviet modular apartments.

It is unclear if and when future building improvements are undertaken across the city, whether more recent works of architecture will be prized to the same degree as colonial-era works. Freeman painted a grim picture, saying, “There has been a steady pace of cosmetic refurbishment of old buildings in the colonial core of Old Havana, but (generally speaking) historic preservation efforts have not picked up in any significant way except for those related to tourism infrastructure.”

The effects of the recent formal economic and political changes in official policy are not necessarily new phenomena, however: Havana has strong track record of using historic preservation as an economic driver. The office of the City Historian, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler, has pioneered local attempts to embed the preservation and restoration of Old Havana’s neighborhoods into economic development plans. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and while many projects in the colonial core have benefitted from Leal Spengler’s efforts—namely the restoration of Plaza Vieja and a slew of other properties the office has converted for hotel and tourismuses—many of the city’s early modernist and post-revolutionary architectural marvels sit in various states of decay and disrepair. The restoration of the National Art Schools was, until recently, slated for completion and renovation. Those efforts have petered out, subsumed by a new economic downturn following geopolitical turmoil in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s chief oil providers.

Cuban architect Universo Garcia Lorenzo, who was coordinating the renovations for the National Art Schools until the funding dried up, explained that with the Cuban government strapped for cash, major restoration projects in the country will have to rely on international funding. Some help is coming: The Italian government is funding the continuation of work on Gottardi’s School of Dramatic Arts and also, England’s Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation was working to finance the rehabilitation of the ruined, Garatti-designed School of Ballet. But, Garcia Lorenzo said, “I can’t speculate now on when the restoration will be completed,” adding that despite the fact that Porro’s School of Plastic Arts and School of Modern Dance had been completely renovated in 2008, the current funding lapses meant there would be a shortage of funds “dedicated to maintaining those structures into the future.”

International funding cannot come soon enough, as the partially completed and dilapidated structures are exposed to the tropical elements. Garcia Lorenzo said, “Essentially, the three unfinished buildings are frozen in time, slowly decaying and waiting to be restored.”

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New exhibition interrogates architecture’s role in U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations

A soon-to-open exhibition is taking a close look at the fraught diplomatic relationship between the United States and Cuba through state-sponsored architecture. At New York's Simon Preston Gallery, artist Terence Gower is showing a series of collaged prints and sculptures that interrogate the U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relationship. This is the second in an installation series that centers American diplomatic architecture in an effort to understand U.S. international relations; Havana Case Study is backed by Gower's two years of archival research in Havana, Cuba and stateside. In the late 1940s, the U.S. went on an embassy building spree, tapping leading modern architects to design buildings that portrayed the U.S. as "an open, dynamic, and cooperative modern country.” Gower, who's based in New York, picked these buildings to understand how the U.S. government's aspirations and ambitions have changed over time, and what modifications to the embassy buildings reveal about both the U.S. and host countries' priorities. One work, Balcony, is a full-scale rendering, in rebar, of the U.S. ambassador’s balcony in Havana, Cuba's capital. According to the gallery's press release, the balcony is "a symbol of diplomatic stalemate and [its] political and economic fallout." When the building opened in 1953, critics zeroed in on the fact that the balcony posed a security risk to the ambassador, as everyone would know his exact location. The building closed in 1961 when the U.S. and Cuba halted diplomatic relations, and the balcony, Gower claims, symbolizes the diplomatic limbo between the two countries in the 1960s and 70s. (Today, under President Obama, the building sports at U.S. flag once again.) Rebar in its naked form is a common construction material in Cuba, but here, in an apt metaphor for diplomacy, the material makes Gower's sculpture seems permanently under construction. Havana Case Study opens on Sunday, November 6 and runs through Friday, December 23, 2016. Gower is giving a gallery talk on November 17; see Simon Preston's website for more information.
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Frank Gehry to Masterplan Miami’s Landmark Bacardi Complex

Frank Gehry should be plenty busy with ambitious plans to revitalize downtown Toronto and to expand Facebook’s offices on the boards. Now, Gehry has been commissioned by the National YoungArts Foundation (NYAF) to update one of Miami’s most elegant and historically significant urban spaces: The Bacardi Complex on Biscayne Boulevard. Purchased below market for $10 million by the NYAF—a nonprofit arts organization that helps aspiring high school artists—Gehry will convert the former 3.5 acre corporate campus into a new arts complex. “By acquiring the Bacardi campus we are able to honor and preserve an important part of Miami’s cultural history,” Paul T. Lehr, executive director of YoungArts, said in a statement. Known for his curvaceous object-buildings, Gehry has already addressed obvious concerns from local community members and historic preservationists. “It’s not going to be a building that’s architecturally published in any way,” he told The New York Times, suggesting that his renovations won't include his typical flourishes on the campus' exterior. “But it’s a place I want to go.” A jewel of Miami Modernism (MiMo), the complex houses the beautifully-proportioned, 8-story Bacardi Headquarters Building (1963), a structure that elegantly fuses European, Latin American, and Caribbean Modern influences. Arguably one of Cuban architect Enrique Gutierrez’s best projects (designed in collaboration with Mies van der Rohe), Bacardi quickly became a symbol of hope and nostalgia to Miami’s newly immigrated Cuban community, a burst of intense formal beauty on an otherwise banal Miami streetscape. Its solid north-south facades showcase tropical murals designed by Brazilian artist Francisco Brennand, who used 28,000 6" by 6" hand-painted blue and white ceramic tiles to produce a warm, exotic contrast to the cool, gridded glass facade floating above the street. Behind the tower, a smaller, 2-story annex building nicknamed “The Jewel Box on a Pedestal” (1975) hovers 47-feet above the street. Designed by local Coral Gables architect Ignacio Carrera-Justiz , the Jewel Box also fuses architecture, culture, and art. Its exuberant one-inch thick glass mosaic walls,  produced by French stained glass artists Gabriel and Jacques Loire, were designed by German artist Johannes Dietz to reference the rich and complex rum-making process. Miami's Preservation Board designated the complex, including its buildings, “historic” in October 2009, prohibiting demolition and protecting its heritage from insensitive alterations. Gehry, who has long been friends with NYAF's founders, will make interior alterations to accommodate new educational programs, design a new public park, and build a new performing arts center to replace an existing—non-landmarked—office building. “I have been a mentor to some of the YoungArts students and know what a tremendous impact this organization has on them,” Gehry said in a statement. “It’s a privilege to help make a new home for YoungArts, so it can do even more for these wonderful young people.”
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A Bittersweet Archi Film from Cuba

We got to see one of our favorite new architectural documentaries on Sunday, called Unfinished Spaces: Cuba's Architecture of Revolution, by Alysa Nahmias and Ben Murray. The film documents the creation, and subsequent scuttling, of Cuba's National Arts Schools. Designed by architects Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti, the highly expressive Modernist schools, built mostly of Terra Cotta, were an example of visionary architecture and idealistic arts education for all, from dance to visual arts. But after the Castro government wearied of creative expression and embraced Soviet-style building, they changed their minds, shutting down construction, although classes later continued in the schools' ruins.  Now the country has once again done an about-face and is hoping to save them, despite a lack of government funding. Look at our next issue for a full review. And if you're in LA, check out more screenings of the film on June 24 and June 25.