Cuba’s landscape is on the brink of change. But improving diplomatic ties doesn’t just affect the political scenery; it also changes the landscape people live in. Of these visible changes, the recent recovery of the former prestige project from Che Guevara and Fidel Castro is the most spectacular.
Located just off the main coastal road in Havana, Instituto Superior de Arte was once the cultural heart of Cuba. Over a game of golf, Che and Fidel decided to change the high society grasslands of the Havana Country Club into a cultural site, commissioning a socialist school for the best artistic talent of Cuba, tuition free.
Construction started in 1961, coordinated by three ambitious architects. Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi, and Vittorio Garatti built the five schools of Modern Dance, Ballet, Plastic Arts, Drama and Music. They moved their desks to the golf course and were charged with the monumental task of translating Cuban socialist ideals into an architectural language.
Their vision was considerably different from the international Modernist style at the time. They championed organic shapes and followed the strange landscape of the golf course with a series of connected pavilions. According to Garatti, it was meant to be “a place that you would pass through, like a garden”. The spacious and open designs symbolised that the schools were not elitist and encouraged social interaction.
As political tensions rose in the 1960s and a more functionalist approach to socialism took hold, the architects and the school fell out of favour. Abandoned through most of the last decades, parts of the complex were overgrown by jungle and decayed. However, recent attention from international architects and the easing of the political situation in Cuba has brought the site back to the forefront and it’s been a national monument since 2010.
Still in a state of decay today, the buildings are a magnificent place for magical photos. Wander around and be sure to frame the nearby river in your view. As funds are collected to restore the buildings, you’ll have the perfect excuse to return in the future.