Past Watch Site

« Back


Havana, Cuba

Born out of the political utopian aspirations of the Cuban Revolution, the dramatic brick and terracotta National Art Schools on the site of the Havana Country Club represent a particular, fleeting moment in the history of Latin American modernism. Founded in 1961 by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara after a round of golf on the course that was to become the site of the schools, the domed and vaulted forms of the National Art Schools were designed to bring cultural literacy to Cuba in the heady days following the revolution. Castro chose Cuban modernist architect Ricardo Porro in collaboration with Italians Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti to build the schools, which were dedicated to modern dance, plastic arts, dramatic arts, music, and ballet. It was envisioned that students from other nations would be drawn to the schools because of the ideals espoused by learning in an environment meant to foster creativity in service to social improvement.

By 1965, Soviet-influenced members of Cuba’s Ministry of Building Works began to favor standardized, functionalist forms over the experimental, unconventional nature of the buildings, leading to the abandonment of the project. Of the five schools designed, only two were ever completed. Although both the completed and unfinished buildings stood in near ruin for years, work to restore the iconic structures and reclaim this piece of Cuban history has been undertaken. Shortly after the National Schools of Art landed on the 2000 Watch, the Cuban government vowed to restore the buildings. The renewed interest facilitated the declaration of the buildings as a Protected Area by Cuba’s National Council of Cultural Heritage, which was the first stage in being inscribed a National Monument. World Monuments Fund organized a session on the future of the schools in 2002 during the annual international conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture held in Havana, Cuba. From 2007 to 2009, led by the original team of architects, the Schools of Plastic Arts and the School of Dance, the two schools finished in the early 1960s, were restored and rehabilitated by the Cuban Ministry of Culture. The three remaining uncompleted schools, which suffer the most serious threat of damage from the elements, have been cleaned and stabilized. Although the economic climate in Cuba has delayed the restoration of the entire complex, it is widely believed that the restoration and completion of the architects’ original designs will occur. The National Art Schools are perhaps the best example of architecture from the early period of Cuban Revolution, embodying the creative and cultural ideals the leaders sought to embrace to signify change. World Monuments Fund participated in interviews for the film Unfinished Spaces as an educational and advocacy effort to bring attention to the National Art Schools and provided some limited support to the final production stages of the film.







Have an update on this site? Please contact us at

National Art Schools
Courtyard, 2008
National Art Schools
View in the courtyard, 2008
National Art Schools
Students dance to live drums, 2006