Havana’s buildings are a mix of a bit of everything: colonial spanish, modern, neoclassical, Soviet brutalist concrete and a whole bunch of other things I can’t even begin to identify. All I know is that the visual contrasts are extreme, and the range of textures quite sublime – especially in that wonderfully strong and directional Caribbean light. How could I resist photographing the buildings – more than the cars?
Just like the cars, the buildings tell the combined history of the people of Cuba: a fort for defence during times of piracy; the faded elegance speaks of a capital that echoed old Europe; decaying shacks and sad facades hiding crumbling interiors speak of decay and the fall of the baroque and extravagant following socialism. Depressingly monochromatic yet functional blocks follow, most still in use and minimally maintained and not at all adorned – they were designed not to require either, in a kind of eschewment of any sort of unnecessary excess. The ‘modern’ Havana is made up of a mix of restored Old World, mostly for the benefit of the tourists – the locals cannot afford to live here; a tiny sliver of the glass and steel that’s taken over and anonymised every other country’s capitals, and more often than not, little hints of hope in the form of colour splashed on old structures that have been made to ‘make do’. How do you move forward without compromising authenticity? That’s a question that Havana’s historical restorers, city planners and people to answer. MT
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