Architecture Classes | Cuba Architecture Guide - Colonial Influences

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The term Cuban Colonial Architecture covers all the civil and military constructions built in Cuba from the 16th century to the end of the 19th century. The ancient cities in Cuba seduce the visitor with its mystery and the way they have survived time and natural disasters. The architecture from that period of time is marked by the use of columns, arcades, banisters, stained-glass windows, doors, and everything that necessity, good taste, and the weather allowed constructing. The best exponents of this architecture were built in Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, and Santiago de Cuba.

Spanish and Cubans thought alike and dedicated a great part of their wealth to demonstrate the sense of domination, conquest, power, and opulence. The visitor can find this in Cuba from reminiscences of Spanish Baroque to the lack of French Neoclassic moderation. The most convincing proof is found in the monumental French tombs of the Colon Cemetery in Havana City and the ones in Cienfuegos, in Reina Cemetery.

However, despite the logical influences taken in Cuba, its architecture had to assume ideas and solutions needed for the heat of the tropic, which later on became a style on its own and have transcended the boundaries of the Cuban Culture. Protection from the sun or the heavy rains were reasons enough for changes, such as the arcade with architrave columns, high doors and windows, the banisters in the balconies, the staircases and above all the great amount of parks, fountains, squares, small squares, benches and avenues.

The dominant presence of Catholicism also determined the course of Cuban constructions during the colonial times. Examples of that are the numerous churches, chapels, cemeteries, and seminaries built with an overwhelmingly colonial sentiment, a sense both environmental and familiar; the final touchstone of the traditions and spirits of the dominant class and the emerging rich Cubans. The monumental and luxurious style of the civil and military buildings marked a Cuban style which progressively became part of mansions and public buildings which restored in a way the Spanish dominance on the island. As time passed, all these peculiarities became engrained in the minds of the average Cubans, who tried to imitate those construction models.

The fortifications built on the island are another living example of the mixture of styles and the appropriations made to adapt to the weather of Cuba and the available construction materials. The greatest part of the buildings was constructed of rocks of masonry from a limy origin and, and the buildings were constructed without decorative intentions or excesses. The architects (the vast majority foreigners) did not do anything more than building high fortresses with wide walls that would resist the artillery of the time. It is worth saying that one important colonial contribution was to avoid massive blueprints and conceive the castles with points instead of corners in order to lessen the impact of the cannons.

The colonial architecture of Cuba survived the Spanish defeat in 1902 and its rules were kept almost intact until the advent of the influences of the Art Noveau, and Art Deco during the first decades of the 20th century. Nevertheless, with the arrival of the American Eclecticism during the 1950s, a great amount of the top-class buildings, above all in Havana City, disappeared in order to construct new buildings full of new airs.

This brief introduction to colonial architecture in Cuba was written by a Cuba travel expert from Cuba For Less, a specialist in fully customizable Cuba vacation packages.

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