Architecture in Cuba is a collective of different styles and time periods. With its capital, Havana, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the architectural diversity is rich ranging from colonial structures to neo-classical, baroque, art deco, art nouveau, and eclectic.
Ever since Christopher Columbus arrived to Cuba in the late 1400’s, Havana became a main port between the old world and the new world. Many military fortifications of the city such as La Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana (1558-1577), are examples of early architecture that still stand as a symbol of the colonial wealth of those times.
Cuban colonial architecture has strong influences of Moorish and Spanish architecture, as well as some Italian, Greek and Roman styles.
The Convento de Santa Clara is a good example of early Spanish influenced architecture, and the Cathedral of the Plaza de la Catedral (1749) is most representative of Cuban Baroque.
In the beginning of the 19th century, Neo-classicism soon took over and influenced buildings all over the city with many interior patios similar to the designs in Southern Spain. You can see the footprints of Neo-classical architecture when you walk along the Vedado District, built around 1859. The Aldama Palace (1844) with spacious courtyards, columns, and French interiors, is considered the most important neoclassical structure in Cuba.
In the early 20th century, Havana saw an economic boom that brought along international flair to the architecture arena, bringing home influences of art deco, art nouveau and eclecticism.
During this time, Cuba saw the most immense growth and construction. Wealthy neighborhoods emerged to house the foreigners and diplomats; Prado Boulevard became a famous shopping promenade, and so many banks emerged around Obispo and O’Reilly streets that it was nicknamed “little Wall Street”.
You can observe the influence of eclecticism in buildings such as The 1912 Spanish Railway Terminal and the Capitolio, an exact replica of the Capitol building in Washington DC, just half its size. The Lopez Serrano Building (1932) by Ricardo Mira is Cuba’s first tall building, inspired by the Rockefeller Centre in New York, while The Edificio Bacardi (1930) is one of Havana’s most exceptional structures and the best example of Art Deco in Cuba.