Cuban School of the Arts

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  • 11-02-2020
Outside of Havana Cuba
Cuba – Escuelas Nacionales de Arte
National School of Arts
  • – In 1961, post-revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevera were playing golf on the deserted Country Club Park course whose members had fled the country;
  • – Che proposed the creation of a multi-cultural school for the Arts to be open for students from third world countries;
  • – Castro selected a Cuban Architect, Ricardo Porro to create a conscious new style of Architecture to celebrate the revolution. A daunting task, Porro enlisted the assistance of two Italian Architects, Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti to undertake this massive project;
  • – Five Schools were envisioned: Modern Dance (Porro), Plastic Arts (Porro), Music (Garatti), Ballet (Garatti) and Dramatic Arts (Gottardi);
  • – Design and construction began immediately but in 1965, the schools and their Architects were terminated thanks to a new alliance with with the Soviets and their ideological and Functionalist approach to architecture.

Modern (Organic)


On the site of the former Country Club Park golf course, Cubanacan in West Havana


At a time after the revolution, building materials from outside countries were expensive to obtain. The design team elected to go with Catalan vaulted brick and terra-cotta forms as the main structural expression for the complex;

What is a “Volta Catalana” you ask? The Romans mastered the art of constructing vaults in brick and it was perfected by Catalans who developed lighter and thinner bricks along with fast setting mortar. It has two benefits – structural strength and utilization of local resouces.

An Organic theme was selected to complement the revolution’s passion for a new utopian culture and to turn away from the rising tide of mainstream Internationalism in architecture.

(L to R) Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi, Vittorio Garatti


In 1961, the three Architects became noted celebrities. By 1965 with the adoption of Soviet ideology, they became poltical outcasts – Porro fled the and Gottardi and Garatti were branded as enemies of the state.

  • – The school was closed, left abandoned and subject to the vagaries of the weather.
  • – Over the last several decades much has been written, mostly in the form of articles about the schools and calling for their rehabilitation.
  • – Help seems to be on the way, albeit slowly. Three times, the World Monuments Fund has placed the Schools on the Watch List. In 2010, the Cuban Government classified the Schools as a “National Monument”. In 2018, the Getty Foundation awarded the Fondazione Politecnico di Milano an international grant for architectural conservation on behalf of the Schools.
Other Readings:

Revolution of Forms – Cuba’s Forgotten Art Schools, John Loomis Unfinished Spaces – documentary film, by Alysa Nahmias & Ben Murray
Cuba’s National School of Art, Mysteries of the Abandoned, Science Channel


Allan Ross

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