Marine Ferry Terminal, Havana, Cuba.

Marine Ferry Terminal, Havana, Cuba.

T H E    U N I V E R S I T Y    O F    F L O R I D A    G R A D U A T E    S C H O O L    O F    A R C H I T E C T U R E ©

T E X T    B Y    W M .   H   A R T H U R    I V

Miami- Havana Ferry, designing two Marine Terminals


Presentation Flyer from March 29th, 2011.
University of Florida ©

Until October 31, 1962, it was possible to travel by overnight ferry from Miami, Florida to Havana, Cuba. The end of this service, and other tourist-related industries in Cuba marked the closing of an era which saw rapid expanses in hotel, shopping and entertainment establishments.

The effects of this tourism were two-directional and profoundly affected the fabric of both cities. While North-American tourism to Cuba has been frequently highlighted, the steady stream of Cuban middle class tourism to Miami was also a significant component of the development of a sustainable industry in Southern Florida.

The physical connection between the cities of Miami and Havana via ferry was crucial for the tourism business, and also of important cultural significance in contributing to the impression of a seamless cultural continuity across the sea. The objective of this project, which I titled “The Miami-Havana ferry connection,” the designing of two marine terminals began with the collection of data on the previous marine ferry-link between Miami and Cuba, and accounts of how the impending exchange would affect the two cultures in which the terminals would be located. My examination of several case study buildings on each side provided the main data of which I would then design the new terminals with key focus on climate and humidity. Then through individual experience and travel to and from the isle between 2008 and 2010, I began to establish how a reconnection of the ferry service and its public exposure would act upon the collective mind in strengthening the link between the two cities, and a gained understanding of their reciprocities in tourist culture, history, art and architecture.

The project; to design two separate terminals, one in Havana Vieja in a historic district called Alameda de Paula and a Miami terminal located within Miami’s historic FEC port of marine entry, now proposed Museum Park. I also used period photographs and original construction drawings from the mid-century to analyze how Cuban and American tourism impacted the architecture and presence of buildings during the era. On the Miami side specifically, an emphasis on the power of iconic images produced by the pre-conditioned mid-century architecture that was prevalent in South Florida during that time.

The project is a design proposal for a new type of travel: the benefits of marine ferry and its relationship to air travel. Current restrictions allow a maximum of 44lbs of personal luggage when traveling to the island, while the newly proposed marine ferry-link will increase this limit to 200lbs of personal baggage. Travel between the two cities has been restricted since the mid-twentieth century when strong ties between the two cities were discontinued with the implement of the US department of Treasury’s trade embargo. Some trade and cultural exchange though limited, is a confirmation of a longstanding and important relationship between the two cities economically and culturally, with a strong influence centered on the optimism of tourism and the exchange of goods. Since the link between the two cities ended in 1962, Miami experienced a simultaneous development of aviation and maritime travel, while Havana experienced restrictions in all foreign tourism until 1994 when international trade markets reopened. Trade and tourism is still limited by permit when traveling from the United States today and travel terms between the two countries are not yet normalized. Havana, located approximately 260 nautical miles southwest from the port of Miami, possesses an active marine port with an existing customs and port of entry facility. Both cities throughout different eras of history have enjoyed the status of hub or gateway to the Americas.

Though south Florida’s urban development has a much younger history than Havana’s, the regional identity of mid-century Miami architecture in which it was popularized has radically changed in a relatively short period of time. The research that I completed on mid-century modern architecture and its efficiency directly influenced my design strategies for the terminal buildings shown in the latter of this booklet.

“Since the advent of air-conditioning in the early 1960’s and its subsequent gain in effectiveness in the United States, Miami has moved away from the popular mid-century use of passive design strategies for cooling and comfort, once thought to provide what was considered a healthy, indoor-outdoor lifestyle in both energy efficiency and the aesthetically desirable.”

Historical precedent by a previous marine ferry operated by Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company (P&O Steamship) and others until 1962 provides some input to the project. Similarly, guidelines set forth by the Office of the Historian’s (Oficina del Historiador de la Cuidad de la Habana) and its participation in world heritage programs have also impacted this study as the Havana site will be located proximal to an existing marine facility and Mercado de Artesania San José; a tourist trade market located near the Alameda de Paula site. On the Miami side, a site pre-determined by city officials adjacent to the existing marine cruise terminals at the port of Miami’s Dodge Island has been exchanged for a new location on the Museum Park property currently under construction.

The historic port of Miami, located at the northern portion of the downtown was constructed in year 1900 by P&O Steamship in the interests of railroad developers Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. This was located on the bay, adjacent to Biscayne Boulevard where the Florida East Coast Railway had begun dredging a channel in 1897[1]. This had two major effects on Miami; 1) The increased viability of the railroads to expand down to the region, leading to the eventual development of south Florida and battle over who would connect North America to the Antilles, South and Central America. 2) The marine port in Miami establishes the growing city as a modern hub and gateway to the Caribbean and Central and South Americas. P&O Steamship establishes the first modern, commercial transit service from Miami and Key West to Havana: Europe and Spain’s historical gateway to the Americas. As the two cities Miami and Havana develop a modern marine connection, industry and Cuban population of Key West shift towards the city of Miami and so does the city’s development as an island metropolis again supported by trade, population and wealth to-and-from Havana.

The development of the current port facility of Miami was one of the city’s largest infrastructure improvements since World War II. Its construction was supported both publicly and privately through various county entities and also the transportation and travel industry. Promoted as an opportunity to resolve problems between the region’s need for marine infrastructure and developing profits from real estate along the city’s coast, the construction and completion of the port was a proud demonstration recognized internationally as both spectacle and showmanship for Miami socialites during that time[2]. The new port brought world-wide recognition to Miami as a ‘Hub of the Americas’.

As this direct trade between Miami and Havana develops, Miami becomes Florida’s largest and wealthiest city; a title previously held by Key West[3]. By the 1920’s, both Miami and Havana are marked not only as a gateway to each side of the Americas, but each develops as its own unique tourist destination despite their proximity to each other. In Havana, this meant rapid expanses in hotel, shopping and gambling establishments throughout the first half of the century, centered almost exclusively on American tourists. Miami begins to develop as a center for Cuban Influence and trade, as earlier migrations of Cuban populations in Key West and Tampa move to the city. This progression begins to evolve officially in 1925 when Cuban President Gerardo Machado saw the great business potential of a Miami-Havana link and ordered a Cuban consulate to be built[4]. This gesture permutated with the 1920’s Tourist Boom of Miami; that of advertised luxury and pleasure in the world of travel. Tourism, not only an increasing economic draw for the two cities, led to the marketing and advertising of the various facets of entertainment offered by each and also, an opportunity for cultural exchange. At this time, upper-class Cubans were traveling to destinations such as New York and Europe, through Miami, while wealthy American couples were making weekend trips to Cuba. Socialite magazines in Cuba such as Bohemia and Social, which specifically targeted the wealthy of Cuba, promoted this exchange with lines such as “Take a little hop to Miami[5]. These publications appeared to be closely aligned with the New York model of high society and often featured colorful, vivid images representing Miami on the cover. Similarly, pamphlets and magazine advertisements produced in the United States encouraged American tourism in Cuba, commonly referring to Havana as, “the ‘Paris of the Caribbean,’ for night life, gambling, water sports, and old world charm.” As the exotic component of Cuban advertisement began to migrate from “historically-significant” to more “hedonistic land of sex, promiscuity, gambling and drinking”, Havana grew more and more attractive towards American tourists.

The use of American hard currency had a tendency to attract American crime organizations, particularly so during the time of prohibition in the United States (1920 to 1933). By 1939, Havana was burdened by several key crime figures, including Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel and the Lansky brothers, Meyer and Jacob “Jake”. After several shifts in presidencies and political parties in Cuba, Meyer Lansky remained politically influential in Cuba. In 1952 he was appointed by Cuban president Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar to oversee gambling concessions in the country. Lansky likely utilized political devices and American celebrity investments to expand his gambling operations. At the December 1946 Havana Conference, Lansky offered political-backing to investors with whom he referred to as his secret partner later revealed to be Batista. For unknown reasons, the Havana Conference concludes with the declaration that Miami is a “free-city,” one not subject to the usual rules of territorial monopoly practiced by similar crime syndicates in other cities such as Las Vegas. With the absence of organized crime figures in Miami hotels, the tourism and building industries in Miami developed somewhat less competitively than those of Havana in the 1920’s.

For Miami, success and popularity took shape of a linear development along Miami’s coastline, and congestion began to develop along Biscayne Boulevard where automobile traffic, railroad staging and shipping activity all met at one point. This caused undesired effects on pedestrian and vehicular movement and continued throughout the 1940’s and 50’s until 1955, when congestion was formally recognized by the city to be hindering growth. By this time, Miami had already become the nation’s leading port of entry, and in 1943 was handling 46.5% of all US international passenger arrivals and departures[7].

There were many factors that led to the relocation of the port of Miami: (1) The number of passengers passing through the port soared; from 115,000 in 1959 to 700,000 in 1971[8]. (2) Combination travel packages offered by tourist companies utilizing both air and sea travel; requiring quick and efficient travel between both places, and (3) Many opportunities for the city to sell the land of the existing port to finance the new port which could be in-filled in to Biscayne Bay.

Numerous master-plans were proposed and in 1959, an archipelago consisting mainly of Dodge, Lummus and Sam islands was selected[9]. These islands were south and southwest of Miami Beach, where a large split in the southern end of Miami Beach occurred from a hurricane in 1926, that created a channel that was further dredged to form what is now called Government Cut. This is the present location of cruise line terminals for Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise lines on the west side of the island, while cargo shipping facilities exist on the east side of the island. A causeway connects the terminal island with the city of Miami, ending at the port’s pilot house located at the eastern tip of the island, farthest from the city. A new tunnel service between the port and adjacent interstate-95 is under construction at the time of this writing, which is intended to provide both direct access between the seaport and interstate system, and relieve heavy vehicle traffic from downtown Miami streets. With the Port of Miami as the region’s second largest economic generator, cargo services are a major component to the activity taking place and are projected to only increase.

The twenty-nine acre area remaining of the previous historic port, named Bicentennial Park has been recently cleared for the installation of a new cultural and museum center, which would include the future Miami Art Museum (MAM), Miami Science Museum, Historical Museum of Southern Florida and additional land for public gardens and sculpture installations. Due to lack of enthusiasm and delays in funding for the final phases of the project, a new proposal would be to add the Miami ferry terminal as a component to Museum Park, allowing for the expansion of cargo services at the main port and utilizing the original FEC port and basin for the ferry: shown in Figure 1.0: Miami Case Studies.

Prior to the advent of air-conditioning in the late 1950’s, the South Florida region, Miami and Miami Beach specifically, was known internationally for its regionalist use of architecture and passive design strategies for cooling and comfort[10]. Many corporations in post-war Miami demanded greater efficiency through architectural innovation, resulting in a very regionalist construction type that is still visible in buildings designed for Miami today. The use of window screens, aluminum louvers, sunshades and lightly-colored walls as noted on the first building pictured (figure 1.1) were among the most-used strategies of local architects. Corporations with travel and tourism-based facilities embraced this movement the most; National Airlines with terminal facilities at Miami International Airport for example, consistently sought design excellence in its facilities.[11] In their headquarters building (figure 1.2), low-slung office wings are linked by open-air breezeways and staircases, along with several open courtyards integrated into the buildings. Pan Am World Airways similarly chose an open-air design by appointing Maurice H. Connell & Associates to design the Pan Am Latin-American Division regional Headquarters Building. This building featured a metal brise-soleil, an open walkway on the second floor and a central courtyard; also known to be a reference towards traditional Latin-American patio buildings (figure 1.4) This monumental, 2-level building still located at NW 36th Street, sits upon an additional basement-level plinth, raising the building about four and a half feet from the heated ground. Now serving as a commercial flight training base, the building still possess the original perimeter of pre-cast concrete ornamental blocks, placed in front of traditional windows and arranged to allow the passage of breezes when air-conditioning is not used. This arrangement also reduces solar gain to not only the windows, but also the building envelope. Gold anodized tapered-thin peristyles surround the building overhangs, which extend outward from the stop of the building and central courtyard to reduce solar gain on the raised plinth surface. This arrangement allows for cool air-flow and reduced temperatures onto the building surface. The front entrance of the building contains a large porte-cochere with a decorative, gold-anodized ceiling that enters the main lobby space. In this diagram, you can see the importance of the perforated overhangs around the building perimeter in reducing solar gain. The pre-cast blocks, further reduce this effect at low sun angles, while the courtyard (highlighted in yellow) is positioned so that it is shaded throughout the day, where more-traditional walls were used. Prevailing winds traveling over the building’s roofline allowed any residual heated air to be drawn out from low pressure; utilizing the principals of Venturi effect.

During this study, I also looked for similar features existing in newer buildings. After finding many iterations of the mid-century examples in passive design, I found that principally they have been reduced, into simpler and consequently less functional representations.

“Many of the sun shading devices, overhangs and other cantilevered elements I found in contemporary examples were minimized either to (a) reduce initial construction cost, (b) meet requirements for building setback, or (c) provide a different aesthetic.”

Each of these scenarios or a combination of, reduced their long-term effectiveness as energy-saving. The less prominent devices, though associated with the regionalist ‘style’, do little to provide the same level of engagement with the landscape and surrounding views that the case study examples exhibited. Heavy glazing, such as that of laminated and tinted materials needed to be optimized for air-conditioning and storm-force winds because they lacked the protection from solar gain that the more passive brise-soleil system offered. This only furthered the negative visual effects of the new traditions, and reduced visual transparency to the outside. Air-conditioning use arises many design limitations and constraints, however through the application of using proper sun shading devices and passive design strategies I later found, the amount of air-conditioning required can be greatly reduced or eliminated entirely in some areas for occupation. Additionally, issues of the region that often arise with the use of air-conditioning and enclosed circulation are centered on removing volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) from the occupiable space and providing adequate ventilation; a paradox in the enclosed-system concept.

Many prominent works that were part of the daily routine of the city, such as the Arthur-Murray Dance Studio on Biscayne Blvd and NW 41st Street (figure 1.8), by Igor B. Polevitzky, featured exceedingly innovative features to prevent this problem. In the main ballroom space, a mechanically driven sliding aluminum roof allowed occupants to view the evening sky in open-air. During the day, working aluminum louvers along the walls allowed fresh air to enter and cool the dance space. Covered walks, recessed window openings and other inventive measures used on the building I found to be largely abandoned by Miami since its reception of air-conditioning [12].

Through the case study research, I found that many of the modernists firms operating in Miami worked closely together to develop ideas about climate and building code. Of the most prolific of Miami’s mid-century firms, Polevitzky, Johnson & Associates was one of the most effective in developing these strategies and distributing the international style among them, according to Le Corbusier[13]. Officially operating from 1951 to 1961 and established by Igor B. Polevitzky (working in Miami from 1936 until about 1960), the firm brought a new modernist approach to the regionalist architecture of Miami and Miami Beach. The establishment of the Polevitzky firm was also at an important time for Miami, as the slowing effects World War II had on construction were beginning to pass and the city was beginning to grow rapidly again with population growth and tourism[14]. Residential, commercial and industrial buildings developed by the firm equally promoted what was considered during the period to be a healthy, indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Through modern explorations in material use, structure of the building and how it related to form, Polevitzky, Johnson & Associates utilized a continuing theme of openness to Miami’s climate and consistent building ventilation to minimize energy use and provide a healthy environment, making people feel healthier and happier within the living space. Through examination of Miami Times and Herald newspaper articles of the period, I found that by working closely with other modernists at the time, the strategies developed by Polevitzky and then implemented into the building code became so widely used in South Florida that by the 1950’s, the city had developed a strong sense of regionalist construction type focused on the indoor-outdoor living that Polevitzky describes.

Through examination of a photograph collection at the South Florida Historical Museum, I found the Braznell residence to be a culmination of all of Polevitzky’s ideas in indoor-outdoor living in South Florida. Built in unincorporated Miami-Dade County along the coast, the Braznell residence served as an example for ideas in transparency and building envelope, not considering its small-scale qualities when compared to a civic building. The inhabitable areas outside the building consist of a series of patios, outdoor furniture and plantings all contained within an envelope of insect screens. While some of the plantings project outside of this envelope as shown in Figure 1.5, these plantings provide a cooler surface for which prevailing winds can enter the screened space designated in yellow. Lead through a series of patios then into more private space such as the bedroom, it is believed that the bedrooms of this residence were air-conditioned. With a perforated awning located above the jalousie windows on the main building, heat from solar gain was reduced, allowing the glazing portions of the building to be closer to the plantings. Another technique of Polevitzky was to provide a mirrored staircase on either side of the conditioned building envelope. In this residence, one staircase matched the other exactly on either side of a sliding glass door; this gave the effect of a seamless continuity through the transparent boundary of conditioned and unconditioned space (Figures 1.6 & 1.7). With a third technique of transitioning the roof structure; beams and supporting elements were made more transparent as they led to the outside, occupants inside the space were given a sense of ambiguity of whether they were inside or outside.

Energy loss and conservation had been during that period and will continue to be an important issue. Passive design considerations present in the Polevitzky post-war homes provide great reference for the design of contemporary buildings with environmentally sensitive issues by using simple, yet effective mid-century technologies. His teaching talked about the climate of Florida providing constraints and regulations to follow, but also its climate presents new design possibilities, given the application of these regionalist characteristics. Designing civic infrastructure that contributes to the culture and lifestyle of a traveler should be explored through this application of environmental technologies that are simple in form and function, and follow the characteristic strategies of the Florida modern design. Passive energy design versus contemporary models, contribute to the culture of human activity rather than act simply as artistic gesture: “they are among those that people are willing to accept as an everyday adjustment from their daily lives and do not require the occupant’s adjustment to their noise or vibration,”[15] such as many of the systems described under current programs such as LEED© (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Despite new pressures placed on local architects today including environmental consideration and consumer demands for efficiency, contemporary architecture of the region still has yet to successfully reproduce the achievements and history of mid-century building innovation and creativity. The intention of these case studies is to help consider advancing newer structures with the improvement of current technologies and computer design to improve and better calculate the way in which they manage solar heat and energy.

With an outside diameter of one-hundred and twenty-three feet, the Sea View Reality building had the shape of a doughnut with a hole in the center, creating a circular courtyard forty-five feet high, covered at the top[16] (Figure 1.9). The courtyard measured about twenty-four feet across and was open to pedestrians at the ground level, containing several plantings and two lily ponds which were illuminated (Figure 1.11). Alexandrae or King Palms reached into the columnar space that the courtyard created. At the top, a plastic dome measuring thirteen-feet in diameter was equipped with colored lights, accenting the ground floor at night (Figure 1.12). Designed for the Sea View Reality Company, the Nichols, Gaither, Green, Frates & Beckham Law firm became the building’s featured tenant. The overall building structure featured three levels raised above a ground floor, which allowed the passage of wind to cool the lower floor and create a covered inhabitable space. “The entire ground floor area is open much like a patio with a roof[17].” The main offices of the building were placed around the central courtyard, even a conference room which contained a large elliptical table was custom built to match the curvature of the building. A pre-cast skin, assembled over the building envelope reduced solar heat gain onto the glass structure, as the building was air-conditioned. This skin was originally proposed as having circular patterns consisting of approximately twelve-inch diameter holes. This was later replaced with a different pattern giving a similar effect for cooling, more easily constructed however less-impressive. Though little is known about the building prior to its use as a local news building, it was located at 1111 Brickell Avenue prior to being demolished at an unknown date.

The Coconut Grove Bank Building by Weed, Johnson & Associates constructed in the same year utilized a different system for sun shading. Because the building was a mid-rise of seven stories, a system of decorated panels with a ceramic tile frieze was used at each floor, suspended away from the building structure on a lightweight frame. This allowed for each level to have its own panels so that the views to the exterior and nearby shore were unobstructed. Similar to the more popular First National Bank building by the same firm and also built in 1960, these panels were calculated to provide maximum shade onto the building surfaces; but in the Coconut Grove, a decorative patterning on its panels were a response to the local area and culture in which it is located. After mentioning this building in his book Miami Modern Metropolis, Professor Alan T. Shulman notes: “Much like clothing, these features offered both style and protection, as the line between fashion and function blurred.” The First National was viewed at the time to be more precisely calculated and having a more scientific approach according to Architectural Record Magazine who later awarded the building,[18] however, it eventually lost occupation and was demolished. Coconut Grove Bank remains standing today at its original South Bayshore Drive location with the original bank as current occupant. Comprised most visibly by these decorated panels, the shading produced onto the building’s glazing surface provides the same depth as it originally did though with slightly less color, giving the building a light and airy appearance. The overall gesture of the tower is raised over a two-story plinth, originally creating a portico before entering the bank lobby. In the diagram (Figure 1.10), colored arrows depict a prevailing southeast wind movement through the base and also the appearance of the solar-gain reducing panels. The portico has since been enclosed and modified for conditioned space, added lobby space and waiting area, in addition to automated transaction equipment (See Figure 1.13).

When comparing other cities, Cuba has a rich and desirable heritage. Lack of funds after the 1959 revolution and the special period some decades later has preserved many the towns and historic districts of the island which still remain untouched and deteriorated today. Due to its geographic location and rich development as an international center, the historical portions of Havana called La Habana Vieja, have developed over the last five-hundred years into an urban model while being consistently occupied as the capital of the island. Because of the city acting initially as a stopping point before Spain both logistically and monetarily from the sixteenth and seventieth-centuries, the Port of Havana retained many of the financial benefits of Spanish conquest. Throughout these centuries and by various means, Havana grew rapidly into a major modern metropolis of the western world and by the twentieth-century, among the most technologically advanced. Construction was so rapid during some portions of the twentieth-century that as many as ten buildings were completed per day[19], such as which took place in 1919. Later eras, from 1943 to 1953, Havana saw a population growth of more than forty-three percent[20]; the city’s largest recorded population growth within a ten-year period.

Trade through the port of Havana remained relatively unbridled since its creation and the city’s move to the natural bay in 1519[21]. Havana Bay itself has seen rapid changes throughout its history, with many periods of frequent and continuous international trade; peaks in passenger numbers occurred during the tourist booms of 1920’s and 1950’s.

Since the revolution of 1959, the activity of the port shifted towards a more utilitarian function, in part to serve the new ministry of public works and social welfare program to implement eradication plans of shanty towns and inadequate housing[22].

Building materials were also imported through the port from other portions of the country and internationally, including periods of support from the Soviet Union. Several city-wide and regional planning proposals were made since that period that addressed changes that the port required. The newest master plans devised for the city are aimed at preserving the city’s spirit and its historic, urban and architectural legacy[23].

The first of several new Master-planning proposals were initiated in early 1963 by the revolutionary government and included the port area providing new terminals for loading and unloading of cargo, on the southern and easterly edges of the bay.

“Work on the port continued throughout the latter 1960’s as tourism to the city dramatically slowed from a post-war boom and the area shifted towards an exclusively utilitarian function and the importation of resources and goods.”

Although the focus of these master plans were to provide social coherence, identity and reduce commuting… environmental sewage and transportation problems emerged, slowing Havana’s ability to introduce more population from the country-side[24].

A second major master plan of 1971 was provided with superior input and more accurate data. This plan included major changes to the port, while it officially identified the port as a reinforcement of Havana’s poly-centric center. The plan also made some interesting modifications to its concept in the creation of industrial micro-districts. This idea of secondary centers helped to correct the unintended outcome of an offensive against small business in the late 1960’s; which deteriorated the quality of the city’s major centers according to those currently living in the area. Also included in this plan was a target to upgrade the southern areas of the port to allow the docking of modern vessels and newer cargo technology[25]. Two terminals, having four distinct piers for container ships were built, however it was not until 1995 when an Italian cruise Ship Company renovated the Terminal Sierra Maestra, located to the north in the Plaza de San Francisco that such facilities were fully utilized.

Revitalization efforts of the port and adjacent terminals have been welcomed by local residents, particularly since the area received the personal attention and frequent visits of Fidel Castro in 1994 and 1995.

A current Master plan provided by César-Perez Architects, Havana, designates nearly all of the port area as publically accessible, surrounded by medium and high density mixed-use zones and parks; rather than the current domination of traditional port, cargo and industrial uses. The plan seems to draw from the successes of the micro-district system created in earlier plans but rather than industrial uses, utilizes commercial and residential occupation with an extensive parks system connecting East and Old Havana, la Regla, Casablanca to the north and Camilo Cienfuegos further east. Continuing the use of small port facilities, such as that of this proposal in old Havana would be in keeping with this Master plan given its small size and limitation to non-industrial use. Current large cargo and port facilities in the existing Bay are slowly being relocated to the west[26].


View along the Malecón taken March, 2015.
Photograph Wm H. Arthur IV ©

At some point since the re-opening of foreign trade markets, Cuba’s capacity of self-promotion and international identity became limited to private-commercial promotion; almost exclusively by foreign entities.

Also fascinating is a simultaneous interior occurrence of self-identity and heritage or Cubanía, where remarkable levels of both brilliance and artistic ability have emerged in all industries, particularly in the development of cultural tourism[27]. While all classes are accredited with the positive results, talented individuals, politicians and local citizens have helped define the historical overview and legacy of Cuban culture and architecture in the manner in which it is presented today.

Throughout most of the twentieth-century, Havana had more than one-hundred and thirty-five cinemas; a number greater than Paris or New York City[28]. Among the most popular; the Great Theatre of Havana (Gran Teatro de La Habana) built in 1837 then rebuilt in 1914. The building is located on the Paseo de Prado, just west of the walled city. I sensed that its prominent location, meticulous upkeep by the city and also performances by some of the most popular international personalities, was an illustration of the importance stage performance and theater life has in Havana. Post-war installations of the same scale, continued many of the traditions of the Gran Teatro in their popularity and visual impact, even as Cuba’s entertainment industries shifted towards nightlife. Newer installations included: The Tropicana, designed within a six-acre park in the Marianao district outside the historic city and the Sans Souci, an impressive club located seven miles to the west. Both clubs were present prior to the 1950’s entertainment boom and were built around a colorful Afro-Cuban theme, dance and artistic expression. Outdoor tables and open-air cabanas were also part of the show’s expansively entertaining and profitable atmosphere[29], with seating arrangements approaching two-thousand occupants and net profits reported to reach five-thousand dollars a day[30]. Even Cubana Airlines (Cubana de Aviación S.A.), began a special round-trip flight that ferried club customers from Miami to the Tropicana, adding a travel component to an already colorful and visually-stimulating experience. Patrons had the option of staying the night in a Havana Hotel, or returning to Miami by 4am the following morning[31].

Within its rich maritime culture, Havana historically possessed a prosperous ship-building industry. In utilizing the bay’s favorable geographic and tidal characteristics, the city had become one of the Caribbean’s main centers for ship-building by the seventeenth century.

Although the city’s major industries have shifted away from trade and construction since the presence of a strong tourist and entertainment-oriented economy, most of Havana’s original homes and structures were built by experienced ship builders; particularly after the industry’s decline in the nineteenth-century.

Many of the types of joints used in homes, the methodology of construction and selection of material are the more obvious signs of this culture[32]. Also notable is the progeny of the region’s vernacular architecture, which seems to respond to a repeating prototype produced over many years with little desire to change. Research by the Office of the City Historian (Oficina del Historiador de la Cuidad de la Habana or OHCH) was performed to determine what characteristics make a building a Cuban building; aesthetic design, the period in which it was constructed and the influences to the design were among the considerations for selection in this research[33]. During an exhibit at the office in 2008, several houses were chosen, having met this criteria. Among them, I found the popular and well-celebrated Antonio Hocés Carrillo residence, constructed in 1648 (Figures 2.3). This home was abutted on either side by typical block. The exterior was unornamented except for the balconies, where the balcony floor was an extension of the floor beams, cut and fitted at the ends. Doors leading to the balconies were louvered, as the house was directly influenced for privacy. Although the residence went through some changes to commercial use and finally a museum for mural art, the interiors of the house still resemble a very intimate interior in the tradition of Mediterranean and Moorish-style residences. Rooms within the house are open to the street, while the entrance is off center to make the courtyard more private. The Carrillo residence, like many of the early structures in Havana was constructed of cedar. In the tradition of shipbuilding and urban construction, this residence is comprised of wood and soft masonry, stuccoed-over and painted.

Considered one of the most important houses of Havana, it was built for one of the wealthiest families in the city at that time. With a total land area of 481m2, the original lot of the residence was surrounded on either side with various craft and pious merchants. During the time of its construction, the nearby Plaza de Armas was extending the population and was beginning to free itself of the primitive roads and constructions previously built. The home’s original construction gives insight to the intentions of that period, and the early decorative qualities of the city during that time. The interiors of the building offer beautiful ceilings with Moorish influence containing different decorations for each room, making it the desired location for museum of mural art. The building’s forward balconies, constructed of wooden garrisons and curbstones have two artistically carved patterns, each with designed balustrades and balusters built from turned wood.

As you enter the residence from ground level, you are drawn through the main entry and towards a central courtyard. Passing under the second level balconies and floor, you will see that it is supported on either end by center strut beams with flashed and grooved boards placed over; the construction is reminiscent to marine quality and type. Typical of other domestic buildings from the colonial era, the ground floor was designed for storage, in a manner not unlike the organization of a boat from the same period.

Visible from the central courtyard are semicircular arches, hanging plants, and three columns with staggered crown capitals. Almost all the roofs of the building enter into the courtyard, providing some shade. The distinguishing feature of this home is a second gallery patio that connects to this courtyard by two small arches. The transposed arches serve as entry to the second gallery by extending to the nearby arch on each side of the dividing wall.

The upper floor is similar in layout, but has three rooms facing the street versus one large gallery. Each room contains an exposed ceiling that reveals one or two beams, braced with four matching cuadrales, or corner bracings[34]. The ceiling is braced transversely with a harneruelo, or thin beam bracing the ceiling frame mid-way up the joists. Utilizing this marine-type construction, the structure does not need to use thick or heavy beams[35]. The thin paneled ceiling of the building and balconies are decorated to be Moorish-looking, adding further distinguishing features to the procession of entrance and inhabitation. Visible changes made to the home in the second half of the nineteenth-century include multiple entries for commercial use, where the original ground floor intended for garage storage and other uses, was easily converted to mercantile, while the upper floor continued to be reserved for housing. As the building is currently going through renovation today, the unique and colorful original exterior of the house is being re-painted in the original shades of ocher.

A later example of the Cuban home is the palace of San Juan Jaruco, built in 1737 in nearby plaza Vieja. In this residence, the builders were permitted to project their building onto public right-of-way land if they provided a covered street or passage; this permission common at the time, later served as precedent to future zoning ordinances in Havana, promoting a culture of outdoor living. The vernacular plan of this home is typical to other homes constructed during the period, similar to the Carrillo residence previously mentioned; a central cubic space surrounded by rooms. In the Moorish tradition, the roof of San Juan Jaruco is flat and is inhabitable for occupants during the cooler portions of the day and evening. The use of Ionic columns was common during this period and they were carved in stone. Jaruco Palace is among the most photographed buildings in Havana.

Early governmental buildings of Havana, such as the Palace of the governors are considered the most significant colonial buildings in Havana and use similar methods of construction. As in the residential dwellings mentioned, these buildings too share a central courtyard for gathering surrounded by covered walkways or loggias, meeting in the form of a portico or porch at the front entrance of the building. As a result, Havana is unusual in that it contains almost sixty miles of covered, public porches. The El Vedado and Centro districts, developed several kilometers west of La Habana Vieja predominately in the middle eighteenth-century, have been popularized in city-planning circles for their successful implementation of public porticos. Assimilated to Barcelona, Spain as a sister-city, and developed during the same period, one of Havana’s major divergences from Barcelona is that Havana established a prominent zoning ordinance in 1861 titled Streets of the First Order, which standardized floor heights and allowed homeowners to construct covered porches, into the front public right-of-way 3.5 meters (12.5 feet). As a whole, these structures were named Portales. Once constructed, the ground floor under the Portales became public entity; however the area above this structure could be inhabited privately, promoting the investment of construction costs by homeowners. This code evolved from the early constructions of La Habana Vieja and helped to establish a strong porch-inhabitation culture that is unique to the city and currently more than one and a half centuries in the making.

As a result, the street and social structure of Havana is developed heavily under this covered walkway.

Commonly, people walking on the street surface access their homes through other neighbor’s porticos, while each private porch itself is also shared among several neighbors and families. This is mostly due to the housing arrangement; most homes in Havana are in themselves multi-family and multi-generational. This complex living arrangement is manageable by having independently separated living units that share a common courtyard, patio or living space. Not new since the 1959 revolution and housing policies, I found that this was a common arrangement dating towards the seventeenth century. Often open at ground-level, Cuban dwellings are interconnected by a continuity of covered walks and road surface. Developed during the colonial period, most of these roadway surfaces of La Habana Vieja are narrow and simultaneously too populated by pedestrians to allow for automobiles. Streets therefore have been modified to better facilitate pedestrian activity and occupation. Covered entrances, porticos and portales lining the sides of the street are filled with people throughout most of the day, giving the ceiling-less street an almost living-room like feel. Similar to the function and intention of the early plazas in La Habana Vieja, the streets perform a central role of occupation. The use of the streets and ease of access to dwellings by portales promote an indoor-outdoor, multi-building lifestyle within the city. With the incorporation of similar practices in the newer portions of the city, this lifestyle became city-wide and notable in areas like El Vedado and Centro. Throughout the day, several times a day or more, it is common for people to walk, share, browse and visit with neighbors, friends and family as I encountered during my visits. Modified from the original configuration, Havana’s streetscapes have adopted social activity rather than automobile movement. It is common to find portales fitted with additional overhangs, tables and chairs reaching into the streets during cooler portions of the day; less dependency on the building envelope is achieved and the building is no longer the exclusive provider for activity. The benefits of this environment are extraordinary because it demonstrates the difficulty of a building’s constraint of envelope, provided by Havana’s fair weather and the abandonment of air-conditioning. This is a view that is essential to understanding if attempting to construct, or reconstruct within the city, as this configuration does not exclude buildings of civic and municipal functions.

The development of outdoor living space in Havana is well-founded, extending beyond the seventeenth century. One of the oldest structures in the city; the La Punta castle located on the northern point of the city and constructed in 1590 to defend the colonial city from marine attacks, contains not just one plaza but a series of plazas; this space is used today for colonial reenactments and entertainment events. Previously, it offered a safe area for traders and merchants to walk and conduct business. Havana’s urban model is configured in the same way; centered on what became this Cuban plaza: One of the most adjacent plazas to the site, Plaza de Armas or Square of Arms built in 1584 serves similar purpose today in tourist entertainment and trade. The plaza also possesses a strong cultural component not dissimilar to its original purpose in that both tourists and citizens walk freely about the plaza without creating a spectacle within their selves.[36]

A major source and distributor of art, dance, culture and the national pride of Cuban art producers are the post-revolution National Schools of Plastic Arts (Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas), located in Cubanacán. After the 1959 revolution there was political and economic optimism in the city, and in the 1960s a lot of enthusiasm for architecture[37]. The sudden influx of soviet aid and shift in production to the soviet type model for architecture and public housing, resulted in a perceived downgrade of architecture by Cuban citizens and subsequent discrediting of previous architects and projects such as the Schools of Art by many government officials. Developed originally for upper-class residential and recreational use during the mid-century, the site of the schools was redesigned carefully for educational facilities in 1961 by Cuban Architects Ricardo Porro, Roberto and Vittorio Gottardi (Figures 2.7)[38]. Working closely with the revolutionist government leaders, the architects envisioned that the schools would help transform architecture in the way that the revolution was envisioned to change society. With an organic compound of brick and terra-cotta Catalan vault structures, courtyards and covered passages, the school of plastic arts complex is described as revolutionary itself by the people who work there.[39] Architect Richard Porro explains that when he designed the building, he thought of two traditions present in the art and family life of Cuba, represented by the students that were going to study there. The first tradition he found was inherited from Spain, having not necessarily materialized in Spain, but developed on the island during its maturity; a maternal culture. He says this because in Cuba the decisions of daily life are often considered to come from the mother. In Cuba the women mix together and decide what the men do. Porro refers to Cuban culture as having a sweet baroque. His other installations at the site are described by others as having sensuality and sculpture; long, expressive courtyards with natural light leading to working areas give desire. The school of music buildings, not unlike the culture he states, have also developed from strange perspectives, similar to the way a short space gives an occupant the idea that it is very long; this is the second tradition. Porro’s perspective in the role of architecture is that it should play on the period in which the schools were developed; the moment of the 1959 revolution. Since the revolution he notes, most of the people that remained in Cuba were mostly an African black and White Spaniard mix, Mulatto and never has an architecture been developed specifically for them. But also in religion he notes, Cuba is unique to the rest of Latin America in that it is not catholic. People are a mixture of several religions, and the most predominant from a specific region in Africa. Porro like many Cuban architects was influenced by Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam, and his uncle who was also an artist. Primarily interested in the forms created by Lam, Porro studied how man became an animal or a tree, a non-limitation of being when mixed with other natural faces or figures; this reminded him of Cuban culture too after the revolution. After a period of deterioration since the schools abandonment, more than fifty-million pesos have been invested in renovating the schools since 2006.[40] With its impressive domes and Catalan Vault structures, I chose to study an area of the complex consisting of three classrooms and a portion of the covered portales surrounding the main courtyard.

Mario Romañach, celebrated architect working in Havana during the mid-century also found motivation for his architecture through a painter, his uncle who is said to have a great influence on his work. Romañach, like Porro also is said to have pedagogical talent in that he was celebrated by his pupils and those that followed modern tendencies in the city[41]. Like other schools at the time of his attendance, the curriculum was moving from Beaux Arts to modernist, and through this process he met Walter Gropius in 1945, who served as mentor to him. First working with Silvio Bosch and then later by himself from 1945 to 1959, Romañach established a successful practice in the city interpreting Havana’s culture into the modernist movement. Beginning with residential work, he eventually worked in multi-family complexes and urban planning. Later member of the National Academy of Design in 1979, his work was described as a translation in physical solutions, while expressing the ideas of culture. As his daughter explained during her speech at the 9th Congress on Cuban Architecture in New York, the material expression was his coming process, the synthesis of forms, technique and function was his architecture. Based on human perception of scale and form, his buildings are determined by all the forces of society and are the result of hard work. “It is the resolution of contradictions in built form,” stated Romañach.

Now utilized as a government guest house, this two-story residence was designed by Silverio Bosch and Mario Romañach in 1949 for Jose Noval Cuerto[42]. Containing many design features for the tropical environment, the house was raised above the ground and positioned to utilize prevailing winds to cool the primary living spaces. In the center of the two large, two-story masses composing the building is a partially-enclosed courtyard with a lily pond and swimming pool at the ground level. This combined with lightly-colored walls and landscaping created a sense of coolness. The composition of the building itself is also significant, where the two main living spaces are separated by two mezzanine levels, drawn over the pool and patio; acting as breezeways. This arrangement partially shades the pools in summer months keeping them cool with fresh-air breezes throughout the day. In winter months, the dimension of the cantilevered overhang allows more sun to enter the pool and courtyard area. Of these two masses, one is comprised of sleeping spaces and the other the main living space, while both are enclosed by persianas; louvered doors that allow the passage of wind while still maintaining privacy. Because of the site’s location in the area of Cubanacan, this residence did not offer obvious references to the urban patterns of the old city and was entirely modernist in its form and concepts. This required that the home provided its own shading from the sun and long overhangs designed to function on all sides of the building. A free-standing structure also meant that the traditional courtyard could be made less-static and was opened on all sides to under the home and out to the exterior. A privacy fence was made under the street-facing portion of the home for privacy, while the entire ground-level under the house was inhabitable.

The Rufino Alvarez residence was based on the Cuban courtyard, planked by two galleries and pavilions that were interconnected (Figure 2.12). The house epitomized modernist interpretation of courtyard and privacy, with focus on the procession of the building into a series of landscaped and courtyard spaces. A raised building surface, with floors lifted above the heated ground surface and several precast concrete screening systems were among the most prominent features of the home. Now utilized as police office and headquarters, the home illustrates Romañach’s studies in heat reduction and comfort. With each residence, Romañach would gain vitality and he designed more effectively, searching for true human expression and what would be needed for Havana’s future; this residence would be one of his last in Cuba. After its completion in the summer of 1959, he left Cuba to become a visiting critic at Harvard along with Kenzō Tange[43]. By 1960, he was invited to teach at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania where he also partnered a firm with George Holmes Perkins, who later said Romañach was passionate about the modernist movement[44]. By 1963 after the VII Congress of the International Association of Architects, those still operating in Havana began to feel the change in the architectural climate and a new commitment by the government to provide low-cost housing. The considered Failure of the National Schools of Art, subsequent closing and the insertion of Soviet-bloc housing into Havana’s urban model not only left many of the principals of modernism, but awkwardly attempted to remove the fundamental underpinnings of Havana’s regionalist architecture and history (Figures 2.13 & 2.14).

The individual history of the two cities, and that Havana was colonial by 1519 make for an unusual comparison of building type. Analysis of Cuba’s early residential structures depict a closely intertwined ship-building and carpenter culture, due partially to the city’s proximity to the powerful ship building industry of Havana Bay and its ensuing climate. Interestingly, the exact aesthetic design that was desired for the early Cuban building developed to be unornamented when compared to other colonial models (see elevation of the Carrillo residence, Figure 2.3.3). By the mid-twentieth century and advent of modernist architects working in the city, the progeny of the traditional vernacular plan produced a simply a cubic open-space courtyard surrounded by rooms. This adoption of colonial techniques is translated more strongly in the work of Mario Romañach as previously mentioned. In the Moorish tradition, the colonial homes of Havana utilized a flat roof that is responsible for living. This configuration was easily repeated within modernist principals circulating internationally and therefore present in the mid-century prototypes that began to develop in Havana. The interiors of these prototypes were peculiar as they resisted the more austere furniture designs of the mid-century, still maintaining the very intimate Mediterranean traditions of wood or Sabicú, a popular Cuban equivalent wood used for interiors. Soft masonry with stucco and paint coverings were also prevalent despite the availability of the new modernist furnishings from Miami, Spain and other European destinations. In the interiors of the highly-recognized Evangelina Aristigueta de Vidaña Residence, Romañach suggested the use of designer chairs. He explained, “Look, these chairs I think you should have, but you know they are expensive[45].” The owner purchased six; the home was later considered to be— “the best house in Havana” by Richard Nuetra[46].

Though a Spanish mission was constructed as early as 1567 after its land was claimed for Spain by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the area of present day Miami did not develop until its incorporation as a small township three-hundred and thirty years later at the site of Fort Dallas: A United States military post built over the mission to fight the Seminole Indian Wars. With a population of about three-hundred rural inhabitants, Miami was originally founded as a farming community for citrus and avocado production in 1896. Its first major commercial development did not begin until the 1920’s after the installation of Henry Flagler’s railroad and port. Without a pre-nineteenth century history of building and urban framework, Miami’s first major constructions were conceived from events taking place elsewhere such as Europe, New York and Chicago. The earliest landmark buildings that still exist today, including the Miami News Tower and Dade County Courthouse were both designed by outside firms such as Schultze & Weaver and A. T. Brown. Within this, Robert Law Weed, who would later become one of Miami’s leading modernists, designs the ‘Florida Tropical Home’ presented in the 1933 Century of Progress exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair. Financed by the state, the Florida Tropical Home exemplified the emerging ‘International Style’ house made of glass, white walls and flat roofs.[47] Using principals of contemporary design and painted in a light pink color on the exterior, the home became foundational for Weed, who would later work closely in the regional design culture of Miami, influencing those around him both personally and through his work. The design methods of the Florida Tropical Home later became principal in Miami during the post-war period and were in the same lines of similar work produced by international celebrities Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius in other major cities.

Miami had always desired to be a great metropolis and although it urbanized slightly during certain points during the twentieth century, Miami never invested into a centralized plan, building type or pattern[48]. Therefore, it was the large hotels and resorts of Miami and Miami Beach that arguably became vernacular for the city. Because of the level of domination the hotels of Miami enjoyed and business investment, Miami was promoted commercially as a leisure city. Resorts by Morris Lapidus and others promoted feelings of celebrity and fame among visitors, as the hotels became developed on ideas of spectacle and voyeurism. I believe it was because modernism was so well-embraced by the city through the hotels, that it furthered a regionalist movement of the tropics for both commercial and residential construction in post-war years.

During and since that period, most of Miami eventually became suburban, instituting a rediscovering of landscape in its open areas. Transformation of agricultural land to suburban landscape was much more recent than Havana’s, where it occurred during the century prior. Citrus and avocado groves existing in South Florida were rapidly turned into suburban areas such as those of Coral Gables and South Miami. The developers of these areas gave special consideration for leisurely and indoor-outdoor design, present even in the Mediterranean-styles that were favored early on. Segments of housing mixed with landscape developed in these areas, which came with little distinctions of use and type, making commercial and industrial patterns to develop almost exclusively along the South Dixie Highway (or US-1) axis. This was Miami’s primary north-south traffic corridor. Residences developed eastward and westward from US-1, among the mangroves that were owned and maintained by many the original farmers that founded the city. This left the principally urban center of Miami in its existing downtown location, ignoring a future desire for communal place-making in its suburban centers. The focus of commercialization and advertisements promoting this movement were depicting individual lots with free-standing homes and provisioned little investment in social infrastructure. This occurred not only in the 1920’s, but again through much of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, resulting in little communal identity and lack of city involvement. Regions within the city were also developed without successive park systems, and the development of Miami’s most popular early parks; Bayfront, Virginia Key and Crandon Park were directly related to the civil rights movement.[49] Therefore, public courtyards and plazas were neither desired or a priority and its Bayfront dining and leisure culture was periodically abandoned; to which it never fully recovered. In the end, I learned that Miami curiously suffered from the same abandonment of historic buildings & waterfront features for which Havana is popularly criticized.


  1. Shulman, Allan T. and Camber, Diane. (Eds.). (2009). Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning. Miami: Balcony Press.
  2. Pérez-Stable, M. (2008). Myth-Making and Cuba. Duke Conference on Cuba. Durham, NC: Inter(Cambio).
  3. Scarpaci, Joseph, Segre, Roberto and Coyula, Mario. (2002) Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis. North (revised) North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.
  4. Sarmiento, Dr. Marta Núñez. (2010, February 9). Cuban Development Strategies and Gender Relations . Tropilunch, University of Florida Center for Latin-American Studies.
  5. Dunlop, Beth. (2002). The Journal of decorative and propaganda arts 23: Florida-themed issue. The MIT Press.
  6. Harper, Paula. (1996). “Cuba Connections: Key West-Tampa-Miami.” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 22. Pages: 279-291.
  7. García, A. (2009, April). Interview with Andres A. García, actor. Recorded April 3, 2009.
  8. Cott, Lee. FAIA. ( 2002, winter). Tourism in the Americas: Development Culture and Identity. Retrieved from David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies:
  9. Suchlicki, Jamie. (2009, April). Cuba Brief: The Cuban Travel Ban. Paper Presented at the information analysis from the institute for Cuban and Cuban-American studies at the University of Miami. Miami, Florida.
  10. UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Paris. (2009). Old Havana and its fortifications. Retrieved April 9, 2009, from UNESCO website:
  11. César- Pérez, J. (Personal discussion with Julio César-Pérez. December 16, 2010).
  12. Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Igor Polevitzky collection, 1986-222-763.


1. The Malecón is an avenue that runs on top of the seawall built in 1902 by the United States to protect the city from storm erosion and flooding. This structure forms the eastern and northerly shores of Havana and extends from old Havana to the Almendares River to the west. It is a popular destination for both tourists and locals for recreational purpose, particularly in the evenings.

2. ‘Cultural industries’ should be better defined to include barmen and waiters; further defined as being related to deep social and sectarian divisions.

3. The bay of Havana itself has an interesting and obscure geographical history. Prior to Havana being destroyed by a French pirate in 1555, sketches and maps of the bay depicted a very small and obscure island, known locally as Las Islas de las Puntas (Figure 2.1). This island was very unusual in that its inhabitants were foreigners from the Canary Islands Spanish trade ships arriving from Europe arrived to the new world relatively empty, carrying only necessary supplies and crew. Some of these ships stopped in the Canary Islands to import women who were reported to willingly come aboard to be dropped off at Las Islas de las Puntas to become prostitutes. Any men, sailors or traders who lived or landed in Havana could pay a flat fee to ferry to the small island for a night.



1. Standiford, Les (2002). Last Train to Paradise. Crown Publishers, New York, NY.

2. Shulman, Allan T. and Camber, Diane. (2009). Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning. Miami: Balcony Press.

3. A Chronological History of Key West A Tropical Island City, Stephen Nichols, 3rd ed..

4. Harper, Paula. “Cuba Connections: Key West-Tampa-Miami.” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 22 (1996). Pages: 279-291

5. Advertisement. Social Magazine. May-June. 1938.

6. Fried, Albert. The rise and fall of the Jewish gangster in America . Rev. ed., Columbia University Press Morningside ed. New York: Columbia University, 1993. Print.

7. Industrial Development Department of the Miami Chamber of Commerce. (1943). Miami, Florida with its industrial advantages “gateway of the Americas”. Miami metropolitan archive. Miami: Industrial Development Dept., Miami Chamber of Commerce.

8. Miami Enjoys Boom as a Passenger Cruise Port. (1972, January 9). New York Times.

9. Planning Review. Report of the Miami Seaport Location [Miami: Metropolitan Dade County Planning Department, July 1959], Project Report No. 1.

10. Passive energy design is the technique of heating and cooling a building naturally, through the use of energy efficient materials, improved R-values, thermal mass and a proper siting of the building to ensure maximum advantage of sun, shade, and wind. Further definition can be found: “Passive Solar Design”

11. Carbonell, Antolin G. (2009) Hemispheric Hub: Miami International Airport. In Shulman, Allan T. and Camber, Diane. (Eds.). Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning. Miami: Balcony Press.

12. With rising energy costs and threats to mineral resource, interests in these practices are returning to the public.

13. Le Corbusier. Sketchbooks (1950-1954) Vol. 2. New York, NY/ Cambridge, MA. The Architectural Foundation/ The MIT press. 1981. D16, 217.

14. Documentation of the firm and photographs provided by the Historical Museum of South Florida, Laurinda Spear of Arquitectonica and Alan T. Shulman of Shulman & Associates, served as sources of reference for this project.

15. Polevitzky, Igor B. (1957, unknown). Architecture and People. Miami Herald. p. 1-F.

16. Presentation material on cardstock prepared by Polevitzky, Johnson & Associates. 1960.

17. Ibid. 1960.

18. Unknown. (1960, January). Bank Changes Miami Skyline. Architectural Record, 2.

19. Scarpaci, Joseph, Segre, Roberto and Coyula, Mario. (2002) Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis. North (revised) North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.

20. Ibid.

21. Delgado- Fernandez, Gregorio. (1937, October 15). Fundación de La Habana al Sur. Revista Cúspìde.p. 14-15.

22. Scarpaci, J. Segre, R. and Coyula, M. (2002) Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis. North (revised) North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.

23. César- Pérez, J. (Personal discussion with Julio César-Pérez. December 16, 2010).

24. Scarpaci, J. Segre, R. and Coyula, M. (2002). p. 155.

25. Ibid.p.158.

26. César- Pérez. (2010).

27. Seinuk, Ysrael A. (Historical Overview and Legacy of Cuban Architecture). Lecture presented at the IX Congress of the Cuban Cultural Center of New York. May 15, 2010.

28. Dalrymple, Theodore. (2009, January 5). Cuba: A Cemetery of Hopes. Front page Magazine.

29. Both night clubs as determined from photograph archives, advertising campaigns and literature of the era.

30. (1961, September). These numbers conveyed in reports by the U.S. Treasury Department Bureau of Narcotics.

31. Unknown. (1957, January). Night Club in the Sky. Cabaret Magazine. p. 32-36, 45.

32. As a major factor in Havana’s strategic placement near the bay, the pre-colonial land in which the city lies consisted of large cypress forests, providing building material and fuel for the city to grow.

33. Visit to the office in August 2010.

34. Menocal, Narcisco. (2010, May). The First Four Centuries: From Bohíos to New World Crossroads. Presentation at the 9th Congress on Cuban Architecture. Recorded May 15th, 2010.

35. Ibid.

36. I considered the plazas successful because both tourists and locals appeared comfortable being in the same space; among the most popularized locations I noted: Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco in Havana, Plaza Juan Delgado in Bejucal.

37. Porro, Ricardo. (2010, May). Guest of honor presentation and personal interview. The 9th Congress on Cuban Architecture. Recorded May 15th, 2010.

38. Loomis, J., & Architectural, P. (1999). Revolution of Forms. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

39. Personal visit to the schools. (2008, March). Informal interviews conducted with students and faculty during my visit.

40. Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana. (2010, December). Presentation materials. Palacio de Lombillo, Empedrado No. 151, Plaza de la Catedral.

41. Romañach, María. (2010, May). Memorandum to her father, Mario Romañach. Presentation at the 9th Congress on Cuban Architecture. Recorded May 15th, 2010.

42. Luis, E. (2000). The Havana Guide: Modern Architecture, 1925-1965. Princeton Architectural Press.

43. Kuan, Seng. (2009, August 26- October 18). Utopia Across Scales: Highlights from the Kenzo Tange Archive. Exhibition at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard.

44. Unknown.

45. Romañach, María. (2010, May).

46. Levinson, Nancy. (2004, February). Looking for Romañach. Modern Metropolis Magazine.

47. Allen T. Shulman and Jean-Francois Lejeune (January, 2005). Florida Exhibition: The Florida Home: Modern Living, 1945-1965. Historical Museum of Southern.

48. Lejeune, Jean-Francois. (2009). City without Memory: Planning the Spectacle of Great Miami. In Shulman, Allan T. and Camber, Diane. (Eds). Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning. Miami: Balcony Press.

49. Ceo, Rocco. (2009). Civilizing the Tropics: Miami’s Park System. In Shulman, Allan T. and Camber, Diane. (Eds). Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning. Miami: Balcony Press.



Behind Miami’s success and glowing international popularity, South Florida developed a unique enclave for modernist architecture of the international style.
The style was so unique it was later coined (MiMo), an acronym of “Miami Modernism”.





Behind South Florida’s MiMo Design Scene

A quick perspective of Miami’s socialite design scene in 1950.




Polevitzky— Innovation in the houses

Evaluation and history of Polevitzky’s prominent residential career.




Polevitzky— And the Habana Riviera Hotel

History behind Polevitzky’s involvement and perspective of the Habana Riviera Hotel.




The Miami-Havana Connection

Designing two Marine Ferry Terminals, re-connecting two cities.



or get In Touch with us.




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William is a researcher of Mid-Century Miami architecture and 3rd-generation practitioner, designing from a perspective that is both
culturally and historically-minded— an approach that earned him the AIA Henry Adams Medal in 2011.


2920 Ponce de Leon Blvd
Coral Gables, Florida 33134-6811
Tel. +1(305) 770-6100+1(305) 770-6100 Fax +1(305) 770-6070+1(305) 770-6070



William trabaja con varios arquitectos cubanos en
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