Blog Post

In Memoriam: Ricardo Porro

I met Ricardo Porro in June 2002 in Cuba, during a visit of the National Art Schools in Cubanacán, Havana, during an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture international conference. Porro led the visit to his schools of plastic arts and modern dance, which were the only ones of the five schools completed in 1965 and in current use. The rest of the schools, dramatic arts by Roberto Gottardi, and music and ballet by Vittorio Garatti, were never completed, and at the time of our visit were in poor condition. The visit was followed by a special focus session titled “Escuelas Nacionales de Arte—Plans for the Future” where the three original designers and the architects in charge of the ongoing restoration project met to discuss the government plans for their conservation and completion, for the first time in public. We met again in 2011, first in Los Angeles and then in New York, at the screenings of the documentary film “Unfinished Spaces,” which told the story of the National Schools of Art through interviews with the designers, their users, and advocates for their preservation. In Los Angeles, we shared a Mexican lunch and discussed the need to help the schools by Garatti and Gottardi, which at the time had no funding and no conservation plans. He suggested listing them again on the World Monuments Watch—they had been listed in 2000 and 2002—to try to bring renewed international attention to their plight. On December 25, 2014, Ricardo Porro passed away in Paris, the city that became his home after his departure from Cuba in 1966. He left the world 8 days after President Obama announced the thawing of the diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba, and 3 months before the inauguration of the MOMA exhibit “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980,” which will feature the National Schools of Art among the most significant examples of modern architecture in the region. World Monuments Fund mourns the death of Ricardo Porro, architect and artist, whose talent, passion, and dedication were limitless. His visionary work on the National Schools of Modern Dance and Plastic Arts in Havana is a fitting legacy to his contributions to the field, and together with the work of Garatti and Gottardi, deserve to be preserved for future generations. It is our hope that the improved relations between the USA and Cuba will eventually lead to the lifting of the economic embargo and before it is too late, allow the international preservation community to rally behind the preservation of the National Schools of Art and their inscription as a World Heritage Site.