Architecture appropriations

/ 25 February, 2015

A new interior design has arises in Cuba for about ten years in spots dedicated to private businesses, especially in the field of gastronomy; they are essentially, bars, cafes, restaurants, and a guest house or rooms for rent. With no references from other architectural cultures dedicated to interior (in the absence of information from magazines or specialized audiovisual materials), new designs are made mostly by the owners of such businesses themselves, who, usually, use codes and ideas born of their personal tastes, their limited knowledge of the subject or, in the best case, indications of friend architects and artists.
The result is an amazing pastiche of various ways in which appropriations of European styles from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are mixed, other trends of the first and second half of the twentieth century, and some local traditions. Many of them, influenced by the success of the famous private restaurant La guarida, fill their spaces with furniture and antiques, old posters and photographs as well, tinted with some sculpture or painting of young artists. Few try to seem cool, in postmodern American style, with simple walls and floors, simple ornamentation and indirect lighting, objects that recall Bauhaus teachings. In both cases they are poor copies, some better, some worse, and appropriations defeated by abuse of preset shapes which do not convey anything new.
There is another position, perhaps a third, consisting of a mixture of both: the use of old elements (turntables, remains of American cars, pedal sewing machines, cameras, sconces, chandeliers, Tiffany, etc.) completed with billboards of Havana, contemporary ceramics, house and techno music, or from 60’s and 70’s, in order to create a somewhat eclectic environment able to satisfy the varied tastes of customers to make everyone feel good in those settings.
And finally, there are those who go to Cubans young architects and ambitious industrial designers true desiring renewal: these are ultimately the best projects in terms of coherence, organicity, originality, because they start from an informed architectural and educated culture at a time, with pretensions to achieve the best moments of modernity or post modernity.
The prospect is complex. Therefore, the solutions will be different perhaps strange or unimaginative but they are the options for the time being. It seems that the coming years are committed to a concerted recycling of shapes and styles to reach, maybe sooner than later, an architectural culture in line and consistent with the best cultural values.

Photos: Alain Cabrera

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Art critic, curator, poet. He is co-founder of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center and of the Havana Biennial, an event he led from 1999 to 2001, and where he is currently curator. He has lectured in numerous countries and published numerous critical texts in specialized publications of Cuba and abroad. General Curator of the XVI Paiz Biennial of Guatemala, 2008. Essay Jury of the Casa de las Américas Prize, 2005, and international art events in Latin America. National Award for Arts Criticism Guy Pérez Cisneros, 2007, and National Prize for Curators 2013, both in Cuba.

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