City’s buildings document 500 years of history
The architecture of Havana is a testament to the city’s illustrative history and a phantasmagoric periscope into the most celebrated architectural movements in Western history.
The different socio-political eras of the country, from the dominion of Spanish rule, to the period after José Martí’s war for independence and the revolution lead by the late Fidel Castro; all are captured by by Havana’s architectural vernacular. The colonial architecture of Havana is imbued with the various cultures that have passed through the island over the centuries, including Moorish, Spanish, Greek, Roman and Italian. While most of Old Havana are reminiscent of the colonial era, a few steps to the neighborhoods of Vedado or Miramar showcase 20th Century modern schools of design like neo-Moorish, art deco, modern minimalism and Soviet-inspired apartment blocks.
Below are a few of our favorite buildings that Havana has on showcase. Click for descriptions.
The Capitolio Nacional was built to emulate (almost to an exacting fashion) to the Capitol building in Washington, DC. The Classical style of the building is evocative of the architectural language of ancient Rome and impresses on citizens a sense of monumentality, stability, and equality.
Plaza de San Francisco features two remarkable buildings in Old Havana. The square was named after the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis, constructed in 1580 as a monastery for the Franciscan community. The church is resplendent with Spanish Baroque elements. At 42 meters high, the bell tower is the tallest in the city and second tallest on the Island.
Lonja del Comercio was constructed in 1909 to serve as the national stock exchange building of Cuba. The most imposing building in Plaza de San Francisco echoes design elements of Palladian influence popular in the architectural vernacular of the United States. The symmetrical façade is punctuated with gradated sizes of Serliano windows, engaged columns and pilasters which work to partition the different levels.
Restoration underway on a Neoclassical building near Old Havana’s Parque Central.
The ubiquitous loggias that line the streets of central Havana provides shade from the hot afternoon sun.
The sweeping curves of the relief sculpture accent the foot of the windows. The relief sculptures from the art deco period recall motifs drawn from ancient Greece, Egypt and the Aztec imagery.
The Russian embassy in Havana is exemplary of the conservative and functional forms which supplanted the decorative. With the revolution came the introduction of soviet style socialist modern architecture.
La Moderna Poeisa c. 1935. The City’s most well known bookstore was established by the Lopez Serrano family. Here the building exemplifies the sublime beauty of Art Deco; a building whose features are refined but anchored with the use of smooth rusticated masonry to create horizontal lines of volume. The centerpiece of this gem is the typography which greets visitors.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes exemplifies the marriage of Neoclassical and Baroque. The undulating curved walls of the tower and the corners of the building break up the monotony of symmetry and the rhythmic tone of the pediment windows and pilasters. The building is most dramatic during sunset, when the rich hues of the sun illuminate the surface and shadows sink deep into the crevices of the intricately carved façade.
Built in 1908, the Hotel Raquel is an elegant Art Nouveau building located in Old Havana. The façade of the building expresses a Baroque spirit imbued with organic, fluid lines and stained glass details of Art Nouveau. The building was recently restored in 2003.
The Hotel Sevilla c. 1908 is a four story hotel built in the Moorish revival style.