Havana Modern: Cuba’s Mid Century Houses Have Survived the Revolution—Beautifully

Architecture & Interiors


A beautifully preserved Mid-Century house in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba

On the list of things Cuba is famous for—cigars, rum, and vintage cars come to mind immediately—Mid Century Modern architecture surely falls somewhere near the bottom. Yet, photographers itching to capture the grand, crumbling colonial buildings long estheticized by the few Americans lucky enough to have sneaked through on special visas during the last few decades will also find a trove of modernist gems—a legacy of the country’s pre-revolutionry past. Some are in obvious states of disrepair, while others look remarkably well preserved, but all bear the familiar flat roofs, rectilinear profiles and elegant flourishes of ornamentation that modern architecture buffs will viscerally warm to.

Modern House in Cuba

Cuba’s tropical landscape proved ideally suited to the modernist homes built by Cuban architects in the 1940s and 1950s

Maybe Cuba’s modernist leanings shouldn’t be so surprising. Given its European heritage, proximity to the U.S., and pre-revolutionary reputation for sophistication and exuberance, Cuba’s modern architects were as much in the mood for experimentation and innovation as their more famous European counterparts—who only needed adventurous clients and a hospitable climate in which to realize their built dreams. Cuban architects, like Ricardo Porro, Frank Martinez, and Max Borges merged the visual clarity and airiness of the International Style with well established local residential traditions, like balconies, terraces and verandas. And Cuba’s tropical climate provided the ideal backdrop for flat-roofed edifices, ventilation brick screens, and the seamless interplay of internal and external spaces.


Though in a state of disrepair, many buildings in Havana still retain their modernist roots.

A great many of Havana’s modernist houses reside in Vedado, a business district and neighborhood that has the distinction of being the most modern part of the city. Planned and developed in the early part of the 20th Century, Vedado’s vibrant character, which includes La Rampa, a seven-block stretch of restaurants, hotels and nightclubs, once made it the city’s cultural epicenter, and rendered Vedado a fertile ground for the modest, but inventively modern houses constructed throughout the district until the 1960s. A half century past its heyday, Vedado still remains a viable neighborhood, but is a far more potent reminder of a time when innovative architecture and thoughtful urban planning figured prominently in contemporary Cuban life.


A sharply angled roof and outdoor terraces distinguish this Mid Century house in Havana, Cuba


Clean volumes and flat roofs are features of Mid Century houses in Havana.


Modestly sized, but inventively designed, this blue bungalow in Havana Cuba, is amongst the modern houses built during the Mid Century era.


In the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, a low-profile, flat-roofed Mid Century house.


Palm trees and lush vegetation beautifully offset the clean lines of a modernist home in Havana, Cuba.


A curving staircase leads up to a small Mid Century house in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.


A clearly refurbished modern house built in Havana, Cuba during the Mid Century era

Via: Atlas Obscura; Photography by Stephen Allen

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  1. Pingback: The Weekender: Coke, Apps, & Cuba. - Morgan Branding

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