Havana's architecture a mix of old and new
HAVANA (AP) -- For block after block, the visitor doesn't glimpse a single
structure built in the last 40 years. Suddenly, a gleaming high-rise jars the
Havana is an architecturally eclectic capital, from the Cathedral in Baroque
stone to the Capitolio in neo-classical marble, from the houses along the
seaside Malecon avenue in colonial plastered brick to the Melia Cohiba
Hotel in ultra-modern tinted glass.
Still, modern buildings are rare. From 1959, when Fidel Castro marched
into the capital, to the mid-1990s, the old part of Havana was left alone as
socialist planners concentrated on building huge apartment complexes and
factories on the city's outskirts.
Havana's tallest building, the Focsa apartments, was nearly completed in
1959. Its facade remains raw and unfinished today, a spectacular eyesore
rising above graceful two-story houses from the early part of the century.
The sea of colonial-era buildings is so unspoiled although often not
maintained that the United Nations has declared Havana a part of "human
heritage." And rather than destroy the old, Cuba has launched what for the
cash-hungry island is a large-scale restoration effort.
But after 40 years of decay worsened by the salty humidity of the seaside
city, a quarter of the buildings in Old Havana have suffered caved-in floors
and many collapse each year.
For Havana, it is a race against time.
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.