Here I present a report on a subject that fascinates me, but about which I claim no knowledge. Based on my experience, I'd say that what strikes the first-time visitor to Havana is the extensive deterioration of large swaths of the city. Once somewhat past that, the visitor can't help but be struck by still visible elegance of many of the sad buildings.
I've tried to find out what I can, and here present some links that offer a little insight and overviews. This one is a super compressed history of Cuba since 1902. This article gives an idea of what architectural treasures are to be found in Havana, and discusses renovation and the lack of renovation.
You can certainly skip all that reading if you wish, but anyone interested in this topic will want to see this video, which is an eye-opener that will also provoke more questions and possibly a measure of cynicism ~
After viewing the video, the disparity between buildings renovated either officially or privately for tourism and those used as habitations or for private businesses becomes more stark ~
China town ~
Inhabited apartment buildings ~
An obvious attempt to keep an old building livable, or at least usable ~
Kicking off the parade of Havana style with some of the magnificent art deco examples in which the city abounds. For some interiors of deco buildings in good repair, see the Highlights thread, which features the Bacardí building and the America theater.
I'll pause after this set of pictures to allow Kerouac time to make additions, as his photos and comments will give a broader picture. Also, I'm sure he has some great art deco shots -- as well as art nouveau and some of the many other grand styles. We'll also be exploring more of the living conditions in centro Havana.
Some great buildings! Somehow I think Havana would lose much of its charm without the mouldy colours, peeling paint and wires attached to the fronts of the buildings. there must be a happy medium between dilapidation and Disneyland.
bjd, if it were utterly renovated like some parts of say, major European cities that would also mean removal of most of the population and indeed, Disneyfication, though some of the places in the film are obviously unsalubrious and a risk to the lives of the inhabitants.
Another obvious need is more efficient public transport. The most pressing problem facing the lady living in the "Soviet" apartment blocks is her two-hour commute. We aren't talking about Brazil, but a country that simply isn't very big (though it is long and narrow). One thing I do notice is that with the tropical vegetation and propensity for bright colours, the pre-fab blocks are considerably less depressing than the originals in Central and Eastern Europe.
I hadn't watched the film until now. Interesting. Obviously the problem is the same as anywhere where poor people are stuck in substandard housing. As soon as somebody invests money to fix it all up, the poor will be pushed out. Whether it's the government or private investors, like the guy from Miami. No private group is going to invest $300,000,000 without wanting a return on that.
LaGatta, as we get further in to this report, the breadth of the problem kind of stops one in ones tracks. I think Al Jazeera did a great job of staying on good terms with their hosts -- the powers that be -- and also managing to present the ugly truth. I imagine that architect didn't plan to have disgruntled residents baiting her with the hard questions, for instance. What really struck me was the couple with the baby living in the fancy apartment for a dollar a month because of "hardship". My squirmy feeling was that they were chosen because they were "nice" enough -- not likely to move any relatives in with them, quiet, grateful, good politics, etc.
Re: the commute -- it takes a good while to drive from one end of Havana to the other, even in a private vehicle.
Bjd, in the second linked article, there are some rather flat-footed comments about Cubans not respecting their patrimony, whereas to me what is being criticized sounds like people utilizing what they have out of need, and architectural significance logically took back seat to that. And of course you are right about the specter of gentrification hovering over people who truly have nowhere to go.
One thing I've been wondering about is Eusebio Leal, who seems to have been City Historian since before he was born. I've looked him up and, except for the Wikipedia entry (damn, does that man have some awards!), almost everything is in Spanish. For those who are curious and read Spanish, here is some info: www.cubadebate.cu/etiqueta/eusebio-leal/ You don't have to read very far to see how impeccable his political credentials are. I found another article with fun insights into intramural squabbling and power-grabbing, with a nice serving of Cuban sarcasm as well: www.martinoticias.com/a/cuba-golpe-estado-militares-imperio-eusebio-leal/127120.htmlGoogle Translate does a pretty good job on both of those links, for those who don't read in Spanish.
Thanks, Mick! Here is a balcony I missed, plus a couple I skipped because I remember using them in a different thread. However, for this thread I think it will be necessary to use some photos that were already shown elsewhere. I also found a never before seen picture which I quite like. It was taken on the sea side of the US Embassy. Look out for the guy climbing the building ~
I think my picture-taking MO in Havana was more on the lines of "Oh, look at that!" and "Ooooo, look at that one over there!" than on a formal seeking of styles.
What I'm trying to do at this point in the thread is to group pictures by style before moving on to other discussions of renovation, decay, etc. Obviously, since I started with Deco, it won't be in sequence by time. I'm counting on you to fill important gaps that I will have missed. From what I've seen in the other Havana threads, so far it looks as though we luckily managed to capture lots of different views and angles.
That's a great picture of the Hotel Parque Central in reply #4 (3rd photo). I keep wondering if that's its original look, or if it's an older building that at some point was updated to look more "moderne".
I'm throwing this one into the Deco pot, although it could be from the 50s instead. Anyone with knowledge of styles and periods, please jump in as the thread progresses.
It is obvious where "Cuba Debate" lies! I will be looking for some of those historical articles. Perhaps some might be translated into English at Cuba Now?
bixa, I was thinking of swifter transport forms. A metro/subway/underground might not be feasable - even here, we have hard time expanding ours, though it is sorely needed - but rapid trams with right-of-way can greatly shorten commutes.
Post by cheerypeabrain on Jan 7, 2018 17:53:22 GMT
Love the art nouveau architecture. Ever since I was little I have liked artists like Alphonse Mucha and Gaudi..there's something so romantic about them The buildings in your thread look like they belong in a fairy tale (after a fashion)
LaGatta, you'll probably come across all kinds of interesting stuff. Some of the most useful information I've found has been while looking for something else. I keep finding more -- just had to go back & edit after finding the correct names of two buildings.
Of course you're right about mass transportation. I wonder if there are streetcar tracks buried under some Havana streets. Even old-fashioned trams would probably be welcome.
Thanks, Cheery. Some of those fairy tale buildings look as though they're under a dreadful enchantment. Stay tuned for more from that era.
Ha ha, LaGatta ~ some of those ladies probably sat languidly back in the gloom, dispatching their maids to check on any action in the street.
Here is some more enchantment and lots of the ruin portion of grandeur and ruin.
Kerouac spotted this building and said, "Look at the vines hanging down the side." On closer inspection .......
The date on this lintel doesn't fit with the whole, but also note how it's retrofitted into the space. I think this cable-spaghetti building is from 1890--1910ish, with the painted doorway from later ~
I see Kerouac included one of the more shocking examples of letting a really exceptional building go to ruin. This tiled beauty is on Galiano Street, in the 1950s the bustling, modern main shopping street ~
Closing out the art nouveau segment with a shot along the street facing the malecón. In most cities with residential seafront, this would ordinarily be the most elegant and expensively maintained area
On to some ruin examples, which you all may legitimately feel you've already seen. True, but here I'll show specific examples of living in or using near-ruins and pictures of building remains which are surely in danger of collapse.
And collapse does happen, as evidenced by this well-illustrated article on the crumbling of the stairway in a multi-story building: www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=123008 (Google translate does a good job on it.) This took place in Havana Centro, quite close to the Capitolio.
In July of 2015, the collapse of a two-story building in the tourist district claimed the lives of four people. Neighbors of the building speculated that a first floor resident might have removed a bearing wall while doing renovations -- renovations against which the residents above had made numerous official complaints. The article goes on to say that the previous day's heavy rain and the poor condition of the building could have contributed to its collapse. www.14ymedio.com/nacional/derrumbe-edificio-muertos-Habana-Vieja_0_1816018397.html
Anyway, on to pictures. In Kerouac's #19 above, the last two pictures clearly show inhabited buildings cheek by jowl with ruins, and the inhabited edifices are themselves quite ruinous.
All over the city we could see evidence of work in progress although, as here, also evidence to suspect that the work had long since ceased ~
Here you can see where the remaining walls of a building are being used as an open-air market ~
And here, what little remained of a building has been roofed and turned into a small market ~
Things were being delivered through the gates on the right. Note the scary supports of the overhang and balcony ~
The remains of the once grand building on the left are abandoned, but everything with a roof on this street seems to be inhabited ~
The sunny street and cheerful yellow moto-taxi roofs draw attention away from the dilapidated living conditions above. This is in the heart of the tourist district ~
Greenery softening and making picturesque the poor condition of this once lovely building ~
And the reality of living in unlivable conditions ~
Now on to the 1950s and later. There is one example in the OP of an apartment building, as apparently quite a few have been built over the years to address the housing shortage. They don't seem to have held up very well. Indeed, the kind woman who led us to the cemetery pointed out examples of newer construction in her neighborhood which were already crumbling.
It turns out that the very first street shot I took features mid-20th century buildings ~
Near the docks ~
On the malecón looking over to Vedado, the modern part of Havana ~
I believe this picture was taken around the border between Havana Centro and Vedado ~
Another apartment building ~
Here are a couple of shots of the Deauville hotel. I have another showing how tall it is, but can't find that one right now. Its full wikipedia entry: The BelleVue Deauville Hotel is a hotel in Havana, at Galiano 1, La Habana, on a corner with the Malecón promenade, and overlooking the Bay of Havana. The hotel was constructed as a casino hotel in 1957 by a consortium owned by American mobster Santo Trafficante Jr.
On the malecón ~
A tall new hotel is also being built on the malecón ~
Speaking of construction -- is this a new building somehow meant to fit in with the old ones, or just bizarre renovation?
Believe it or not, Havanna reminds me a lot of Israel. In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem I couldn't get over the neglected buildings and rubble left to grow weeds. I remember asking our guide why things were left to rot. His simple answer to an ignoramus like me at the time, was "Well, there is a war going on and just no money for anything else" No war in Havanna, but years of struggling for funds I guess. Still, clean and very interesting. I love Art Deco, Mr.Tod loves old cars - A place made in heaven for a visit I guess.
As you can see from Kerouac's two mid-century examples above, Vedado -- "new Havana" -- was once quite spiffy. Much of the tourist stuff I read made it sound as though it still was. As you can see, that is hardly the case.
It looks like they ran out of money to build higher so just stopped there. At least they painted it and didn't leave it concrete-coloured.
I can't yet figure out how people get money for extensive renovation, which that appears to be. government loans or grants? Savings? My take on that awkward high part of the wall on the left is that it's meant to screen an ugly view.
... years of struggling for funds I guess. Still, clean and very interesting. I love Art Deco, Mr.Tod loves old cars - A place made in heaven for a visit I guess.
Tod, it is very interesting indeed & a treat for lovers of vintage cars and architecture. But really, clean it is not. I wound up really liking the city and would return, but the garbage bothered me the whole time I was there.
Here you can see where a neighborhood group took steps to curtail garbage dumping. And indeed, that street was clean.
In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem I couldn't get over the neglected buildings and rubble left to grow weeds. I remember asking our guide why things were left to rot. His simple answer to an ignoramus like me at the time, was "Well, there is a war going on and just no money for anything else" No war in Havanna, but years of struggling for funds I guess.
Perhaps because of where I live, I'm pretty cynical about how funds for various works are used by the powers that be. This photo shows something we saw over and over again -- a work in progress whose progress seemed to have been halted long ago~
Somehow I think Havana would lose much of its charm without the mouldy colours, peeling paint and wires attached to the fronts of the buildings. there must be a happy medium between dilapidation and Disneyland.
To a degree I think we'd all agree with that statement, Bjd. However, even as a tourist I could feel the sheer scale of the decay working on me & can only try to imagine how demoralizing it would be to be stuck in those circumstances.
Let's face it, other people's poverty can be a quaint mother lode of photo ops. But the reality of having to keep on top of laundry by hand and of continuously climbing crumbling stairs to inadequate lodgings must grind people down.
But there are positive signs of change and renewal, so let's end on that note --
I've been following all the Havana threads. Before I saw bixa's and kerouac's photos, I thought I knew how I felt about Havana, but I was wrong. It's not what I thought. I've been waiting to comment till I was sure how I feel about it, but I still don't know.
It's disquieting to see the dilapidated conditions of the buildings and the amount of garbage in the street. Once I'd seen this background of decay, I couldn't set it aside and couldn't any longer enjoy or appreciate the brightly painted and elegant facades, which ordinarily I would love.
I would like to think -- although it is depressing -- that none of this would have happened without the stupid boycott.
As for the garbage, I have been to enough miserably poor countries to have understood that garbage collection or even personal pride in the aspect of one's neighbourhood are not at all the most important considerations in the lives of all of these people. It's a shame to say it, but cleanliness is a luxury of the wealthy.