The forces of Spanish Colonial, Arabic, ecletic and art deco are strongly apparent in the architecture of Havana. Interestingly though, the architecture did not evolve from the indigenous population, but rather from the culture of invading nations and what they needed to achieve at a particular time in history. The Spanish invaded and later the Americans dominated politics of the right wing dictatorship of Batista and industry in Cuba. The outsider forces on arrival in Cuba built forts as a line of defense and, later on, residential and civic buildings in the style of the period of time in which they were constructed. Architecture was adapted to the new Cuban way of life, raw materials and climate. Wealth had masses to do with the shape and form of architecture that evolved in Havana. Cuba’s strategic position in the Caribbean was also an influence. Havana at its highpoint became one of the greatest cities in Latin America.
The Fototeca de Cuba or the Library of Cuba, situated in the Plaza Vieja in an 18th century two storey blue building at 307 Mercaderes, was established in 1986. Its mission is to preserve, study and promote the country’s valuable photographic collection and create a space for the promotion and exhibition of Cuban photography. The Fototeca de Cuba houses the national photographic archive (transferred from the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes), a vast and valuable collection of documents. It is also a museum with the widest and most valuable collection of Cuban photography known. It serves as a gallery with spaces for temporary exhibitions of photography that are not (yet) a part of the permanent collections of the archives.
For the visitor to Havana, Cuba, one of the most striking features of the city is its architecture. The architecture of Havana is an echo of a time of cultural splendor and creativity. Some would say this state of mind still exists today. A city framed by the beauty of its architecture, both modern and historical and its weary decay. But fear not, a massive reconstruction and renovation project has been underway for years, restoring what is lovely in Havana.
It’s been 15 years now that Ateneo Art Cuba has been online. That’s a lot of years forward from Day One. Formed from an idea developed on the rooftop of an artist’s home in Santiago de Cuba. We cooked chicken over a burning barbecue and prepared the rest of the meal in the kitchen. We discussed ideas into the early morning under a night full of stars. Many of the original artists have moved on. Some went to Spain, one went to France. Some went to Canada and the United States. Others came back to Cuba.