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Havana Architecture .com - Revolutionary

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Since 1st January 1959, the day Castro took power, Havana's skyline has hardly altered. After the fall of the former Soviet Union, Cuba had to rely heavily on its own resources and many projects begun in the 1980s had to be halted and still remain unfinished today.

Habana del Este (1959 - 61) was an innovative housing project and can represent the theoretical ideas, which were in vogue at the time and the type of architecture the early revolutionary government were endorsing. Cuban architects at the time were influenced by the new towns of Britain, the neighbourhood concept of the US, satellite cities of Scandinavia and models from the USSR and Eastern Europe. It also took influences from the CIAM movement (Congress International de Architecture Moderne) using separate flows of vehicles and pedestrians, green belts and social services. We can observe from this scheme a new humanistic approach in the government's attitude to architecture. It was a time when socialist ideals were given weight within architecture while it could just afford so.

Many acts of aggression at the time were aimed at Cuba including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion. The US embargo became the key factor in forcing Cuba to seek a new formula of building and construction. New resources and innovative means of construction were forced upon Cuban architects. Tourism disappeared and new building eventually stopped. Paint, building materials and skilled labour became short in supply. In the absence of building codes new occupants adapted spaces, as they liked often building mezzanine's to maximise the number of occupants.

Fidel Castro himself helped set up with young architects microbrigades. Future tenants and employees built buildings of thirty apartments in groups of 33 for 2 to 3 years. The Ministry of Construction would supply them with land, materials, tools, equipment and salaries. The micro brigade was formed within the work place and activities at both the building site and workplace coordinated as half the labour force worked on a built project the other half covered the jobs at work. They are seen both conceptually and socially as a success throughout Cuba.

There are some outstanding projects of this period such as the CUJAE University Campus (1960 - 64) the National Schools of Art (1961 - 65). This brainchild of Che Guevara this monumental scheme demonstrated a search for new forms of artistic expression. Designed by Richard Porro, Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi. Three of the five schools are still incomplete and stand unloved needing urgent maintenance. They showed a new search for new forms, construction, materials and artistic expression.

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