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Cuba School of Dance, Havana, Cuba

Monday 25 Jun 2012

A leap of faith

Cuba School of Dance by Foster + Partners in Havana, Cuba
Nigel Young 
Cuba School of Dance by Foster + Partners in Havana, Cuba Cuba School of Dance by Foster + Partners in Havana, Cuba
Your comments on this project

No. of Comments: 8

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24/01/13 Anya Achtenberg, Minneapolis
Arts Focus on Cuba, based in the United States, will be taking a group to Cuba in mid-June on an Art and Architecture trip.
We will visit extraordinary world heritage sites of baroque and neoclassical architecture, as well as deco and modernist, in Havana and elsewhere in Cuba. I am thrilled that we will be visiting the National Arts School, where Acosta will be establishing the Cuban School of Dance.
I have wanted to see it up close since I saw the astonishing film on it, "Unfinished Spaces", and want to see it before any changes are made. I am glad to know that this will be a collaboration, with Garatti included, and as well thrilled that there is the chance to gather the material support needed for this magnificent project of architecture and dance.
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29/06/12 Miriam, Havana
I am an architect and I live in Cuba, Garatti has my unconditional support and if Foster respects the original project he will also have my support.
That work is a pride for all those that love the art in Cuba and in the world and debit side to be finished as it was thought of the original project..
27/06/12 Comitato Vittorio Garatti, Italy
This is really important! We can't permit to another architect to put his hands on the National Schools of Arts. We can't forget how important is the complex to let Foster do his own project in the School of Ballet. The original architect is Vittorio Garatti and he is alive and well, he should be the one at the helm of any design or development at this site. He is the father of his project and no one should be allowed to redevelop the original building without his approval. Please share www.facebook.com/comitatovittoriogaratti
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27/06/12 Catherine, Paris
Cuban architect Ricardo Porro one of the architects of the schools is still living and working in Paris.
27/06/12 Keith, London
Cuba ought to be able to finish this job themselves. Don't they have any home-grown architects? Norman Foster is a great global architect, nothing wrong with him, but now he should consider mentoring Cuban architects to get this job done. Or maybe the Cubans are looking to attract visitors by having a 'starchitect' name attached.
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27/06/12 rohan, melbourne
These buildings are amazing, and just as amazing have survived nearly 40 years of abandonment. I hope Foster will be simply completing them, not modernizing them.
27/06/12 Carlos Rodriguez, Havana
Of course Cuba has enough architects to finish this marvelous piece of architecture. In fact it is a Cuban: Universo Garcia -in collaboration, of course, with its original author Garatti-, who's actually attending the completion project. Foster presence on this one will only be to contribute with the promotion and fund-raising campaign for the construction of the centre (the image of the model in this article was built by his team with this purpose), as he is one of the main actionist in Acosta's foundation.
There’s a lot of history behind these schools. Recently was launched a 90 minutes documentary that perfectly gathers all this history, it is called “Unfinished Spaces” produced by Alyssa Nahmias and Bill Murray.
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27/06/12 Elisabeth, London
I can't believe that an "archi-star" will rebuild the original masterpiece of Vittorio Garatti. It's a crime! Vittorio Garatti is alive and he represents the best choice that Cuba could have to complete the school!!! Just one question: would Foster be happy if another architect rebuild one of his designed building?
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World-famous ballet dancer Carlos Acosta returns to Cuba to back Foster-designed Cuba School of Dance in Havana 

In the ultimate rags to riches story, Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta is preparing to return to his roots in Havana and transform Fidel Castro’s unfinished School of Ballet on the edge of the city into a flourishing Cuban School of Dance with a little help from globally-renowned architect Lord Norman Foster.

Born as the eleventh child to a low income family in a poor area of Havana in 1973, Acosta was inspired to dance after watching the Cuban National Ballet. He followed his feet to a state dance school and quickly rose through the ranks to his current position of Principal Guest Artist at The Royal Ballet in the United Kingdom.

Acosta left his home in Cuba fourteen years ago and is now ready to return after acquiring the help of Foster + Partners to draw up a feasibility study for the redevelopment of Fidel Castro’s incomplete dance school. Contrary to various reports on blogs and news zines, Foster + Partners will not be redesigning the entire site but just the existing buildings, as shown in the rendering to the left.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Foster explains his connection to the project: “Carlos is a great dancer, who is inspiring the regeneration of an iconic ruin of early modernism outside Havana.” Acosta’s motivation is more businesslike however, as he details: “I see myself going back not just because it is where I was born but because the country is going in the right direction. The changes of the past two or three years are positive, in particular the incentive to create more of a market economy.”

The building dates back to 1961 when Italian architect Vittorio Garatti composed the design for political figure Fidel Castro as part of a series of five education bases for the arts, including the Schools of Modern Dance, Plastic Arts, Dramatic Arts, Music, and Ballet. In direct response to what they saw as the former architecture of capitalism, the architects of the five schemes - Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti - chose to inspire their buildings’ users with high domed ceilings and rich, locally produced terracotta tiles.

Located at the aged Havana Country Club, the School of Ballet is driven into a deep gorge and defined by a series of Catalan vaults that link its domed structures. A network of pathways within the complex are reached through five entrances which eventually lead to classrooms, dance pavilions, supporting admin areas, a library and a ‘Pantheon-like’ performance venue.

Shortly after the buildings’ construction in 1961, the architects were met with a backlash from critics who felt that the designs were ‘primitive’ and ‘backwards’. Few details of the new design have been released other than this rendering however the needs of contemporary dancers have moved on since the 1960s. Now on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Tentative List, the Schools have returned to the public’s interest and into the hands of one of the world’s most in-demand architects.

Sian Disson
News Editor

Key Facts

Status Concept design
Value 0(m€)
Foster + Partners

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