January 20, 2010

Modernist architecture in Havana (Cuba)

In this blog, I wrote often about social realism and modernist building in Eastern Europe, mostly of Belgrade. That architectural style that followed the goals of socialism and communism in a philosophical way, produced (in my advise) some of the most fascinating buildings! Try to look at the Genex-Building, the Rudo-Buildings in Belgrade or at these great buildings in Bratislava (Slovakia).

My husband gave me a good reason to make a post about that kind of architecture of a place where this architecture is also very well represented: he made wonderful pictures of communist and modernist buildings in Cuba for me!

Cuba provides a particularly big collection of interesting architecture because it was a colony of Spain, a neo-colonial protectorate of the US, an independent republic and then finally a socialist country, all within less than a century.

Havana's modernism

In the 40's and 50's Havana was considered a destination for gambling and holidays in the sun. It became a haven for criminals, gangsters and playboys. That was the time when most of the modernist high-rise buildings were built. Thanks to Fidel Castro and his regime this beautiful buildings have stayed unaltered and here they stand almost the same like in they time when they were built...and the ravage of time gives them  even more charm! 

Hotel Havana Riviera

This building was built 1956 - 1957 by the designs of russian-born Igor Polevitzky (1911 - 1978) and Irvin Feldman served as general contractor. It's a twenty-one-story, 440-room edifice, towering above the Malecon. When it opened, the Riviera was the largest purpose-built casino-hotel in Cuba or anywhere in the world, outside Las Vegas.
The angled shape made that each room had a sea view and the futuristic look reflected the lifestyle of the before Castro Cuba. 

Here an old postcard when the Hotel was built and below how it looks today. Just the surrounding changed...the Hotel building and its facilities are basically the same as in 1957.

Here a picture of the interior (from www.hotelhavanariviera.com)
The Interior design was made by Albert Parvin (of Parvin Dohrman Co. in Los Angeles). It was  completly furnished and custom-made pieces were made for the lobby, the restaurant and the cocktail lounge.


 Focsa Building

Focsa Building like it looks today

The Edificio Focsa (Fomentos de Obrasy Constructiones Sociedad Anonima) designed by architect Ernesto Gomez Sampera (1956) represents Havana's booming economy and foreign influence at the time. 

This 35-storey complex was conceived and based on Corbusian ideas of a self-contained city within a city. It contained 375 apartments (distributed on 30 floors), garages, a school, stores and so on (on 9 floors) and restaurant on the top floor. 

 This was the tallest concrete structure in the world at the time and the ultimate symbol of luxury. Here above the sale brochure used by the investors to sell the apartments (property of Mr. Alberto Quiroga, son of the jewelry store owner in Focsa)

Focsa Building like it looked in the 50's

(to be continued)


  1. I used to hate modernism, but lately I found it's really fascinating its way too!!
    Bratislava has many good examples, but also shots took by your husband are explaining the real sense of modernist architecture. Bravo!!

  2. Great photos and information!

  3. Modernism has been my passion since I was a teen! :-) but I'm glad Ms Larsen that you're discovering the fascination of this style!

    To Modernesia, thanks for the compliments, feel free to put the post on your very nice blog.

  4. Larger establishments also employ executive chefs and food and beverage directors who plan menus, purchase food, and supervise kitchen personnel for all of the kitchens in the property.

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  5. nice blog ...
    send me details of resorts, excursions and tours in Cuba...
    Holidays to Cuba

  6. These buildings may have been saved because of economic impotence of a failed communist regime but they were built by CAPITALISTS.

    1. you're right F&^K Communists, one of the few good things about communism is that these buildings are preserved!