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History of Architecture in Havana (Part 1)

History of Architecture in Havana (Part 1)

History of Architecture in Havana (page 1 of 2)

Havana, the capital city of Cuba, has a special character; different from many Latin American cities. It did not undergo the building boom of the 1960's that destroyed so many historic buildings and towns in the region.

After the Cuban Revolution in1959, priority was placed on other matters, so the City was not transformed according to Modern trends. However, due to their advanced age and lack of maintenance, historical quarters were quite deteriorated.

The historic core of Havana was founded in 1519 at Carenas Bay. Unlike most Latin American towns where there is a central plaza, Havana has a peculiar urban structure composed by several main squares, each one with one dominating public, social or religious function. Impressive buildings were built on Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza del Cristo and Plaza de la Catedral. Probably, the most outstanding among them belong to the 18th century, like the Baroque Cathedral of Havana and the Governor's Palace on the Arms Square.

Owing to its function as a port city with a unique geographical location at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico since the 16th century, Havana had a relevant role as a trade and communication enclave between the Old and the New Worlds. For this reason, the city was constantly attacked by pirates and corsairs, which represented the various enemies of Spain.

Morro - Cabaña Fortress in Havana, Cuba
Morro-Cabaña Fortress

Since the third decade of the 16th century the Spanish crown had to build fortresses as a protection from these dangers.

The most impressive ones are La Fuerza, the oldest one remaining from mid 16th century, inspired on Italian Renaissance patterns, the 17th century Morro and La Punta Castles at the harbors´ entrance channel and the 18th century La Cabaña, more than seven hundred meters long facing this channel. Additional protection was provided by the stone walls which surrounded the town.

In the 19th century Old Havana's most wealthy inhabitants moved to more modern housing or villas in Vedado and Cerro Districts, where new urban development comprised larger gardens and public green spaces. Most of the historic core´ s old palaces were then subdivided into small rooms for rent in order to lodge the increasingly growing population mainly workers- of the Old Town.

The demolition of the city walls began in 1863 and it continued until the early years of the 20th century. The urban space formerly occupied by the walls became the main focal point of the City.


The Inglaterra, Plaza and Telégrafo Hotels, the modern cigar factories as magnificent examples of industrial architecture, the impressive headquarters of the Centro Asturiano and the Centro Gallego both of them representing the economic achievements of Spanish immigrants, were among the most significant buildings on this zone.

Centro Gallego in Havana

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Also check on Cuban Architecture
  History of Cuban Architecture
  History of Architecture in Havana
  Interesting Places

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