Cuba, B.C. slide show: A crumbling art nouveau relic of Havana’s former prosperity

From our Bureau of Potentially Lethal Nostalgia with some assistance from our Bureau of Vanished Worlds

For the past 74 years, this 104-year-old Havana mansion in the La Víbora neighborhood has been used as a school. Fortunately, it has escaped “improvements” that could have destroyed its charm, but, unfortunately, neglect by its owner, Castro, Inc., has caused it to fall into disrepair, as is the case with every building in Cuba that doesn’t serve some function for foreigners or the tourist industry.

Built in the art nouveau style as a suburban mansion for a Catalan immigrant who had made a fortune in Cuba, the former mansion known as Masia L’Ampurdá is now one of Havana’s many imperiled relics, teetering on the edge of collapse.

Take a look at the slide show. Be amazed by what was once possible in Cuba. Marvel at the decorative details, the construction materials. This is as fine a structure as any in Barcelona, the epicenter of art nouveau style in Spain.

Ay, Dios mio. Lord have mercy. Professor Tres Fotutos can’t handle the mixed emotions evoked by this building, maybe because so many like it haunt his dreams, as well as his memories of Havana, B.C. (Before Castro).

Article by Yaneli Leal, abridged and loosely translated from Diario de Cuba

So many palaces have been converted throughout the country into so many other things, that it is no longer strange to visit old residences of the Cuban upper class for a medical consultation, a bureaucratic procedure, a concert or a conference. The truth is that the architectural experience alone is well worth the excuse to enter many of them, enjoy their art and the excellence with which they were conceived. Sadly, a large part is not in a good state of conservation, they have lost several elements or have been transformed with impunity.

Especially interesting are those that have been converted into schools, due to the new ability they acquired to expose students to artistic elements that are everyday and, as such, are integrated into their imagination, albeit unconsciously. This is the case of the Andrés González Lines elementary school, in La Víbora, a building not very well known beyond the residents of the neighborhood and architecture lovers who recognize it as an exceptional example of art nouveau in Cuba.

As a house it was built, in 1919, on the corner of Revolución street with Gertrudis, in the Sevillano neighborhood. It was the work of Mario Rotllant i Folcarà, one of the most prestigious Catalan master builders living in Havana at the time. The house has been known as Masia L’Ampurdá, and responds to the typology of retirement villas or second homes that, since the end of the 19th century, were projected in the new urbanizations in the south of the city. The word “masia” reinforces this idea as it was used in Catalonia to name large country estates.

The name of its first owner is not known, and it is said that he died three months after inhabiting the house. Perhaps it was Catalan, which would be related to the name of the mansion —which still appears on the walls of the main entrance—, and with the modernist design so fashionable at that time in that Spanish province.

Since 1949, the third owners of the house, the González Lines family, turned it into a private school. In 1960 it was nationalized, and it retained its teaching function as a primary school and remains so to this day. Although most of its useful life has been a school, the interior layout of the house has not been altered, so that each class mostly occupies the old halls of the residence. Despite the need to create sports and recreational areas, it is a pity that it has not preserved a larger garden area, however, it can be said that it is one of the refunctionalized buildings that has undergone the least transformations.

The lack of maintenance does notably affect its state of conservation and the integrity of the design. Given the few investments that are made in the built fund of the national educational complex, there is no prospect that it will be restored in the near future. This is how it remains, aging rapidly, without ceasing to be a peculiar educational space and, above all, a Havanan architectural jewel.

Whole story HERE in Spanish

1 thought on “Cuba, B.C. slide show: A crumbling art nouveau relic of Havana’s former prosperity”

  1. I’m surprised it’s not in worse shape. Castro, Inc. doesn’t care about Art Nouveau or anything of the sort.

Comments are closed.