Grandeur: restored and unrestored

The grandeur of Havana is hard to adequately describe for it comes well dressed and it comes in tatters. Either way it has soul and it has style.

Havana’s old town, Habana Viejo, is a UNESCO Heritage area.

Here, the buildings have been stylishly restored to their original pastel colours…

Colourful restored buildingd of Habana Viejo

…with exquisite detail - as in the fancy wrought iron railings and façade features of this building.

Detail of  facade restoration in Havana

Every detail is done to perfection - like the woodwork and lamp here…

Colourful restored building in Habana Viejo

…and this wonderful sculpture inside a hotel terrace, with frog perched on the suitcase of a travelling lady dressed in period costume.

Havana hotel sculpture of lady traveller with frog

Detailed patterns of the iron railings, stained glass and building detail are all carefully restored to former grandeur.

As Coco Chanel famously said:

Nature gives you the face you have at twenty;

it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.

A city shares the same fate as time passes relentlessly on.

Habana Viejo clock in restored façade

Havana must have been a stunning city in its prime, for it is now, both with …

Building restoration in Havana

… and without make-up.

Unrestored grandeur of building in Havana

The style and personality of this building are retained, even though un-retouched.

There is no denying classic style – no matter how simply adorned it might be at the time.

Here, art deco bas-relief frames doors and windows…even if the shutters are mended with wood of different thicknesses…

Pelican Art  Deco framing window in Havana

Back in the restoration area, the streets of Havana Viejo are picturesque, sometimes with old cannon balls to stop vehicular traffic in the pedestrian streets.

Habana Viejo street with cannon-ball traffic barriers

In the heat of the afternoon, most people within the old town are taking a siesta and the street are quiet before the bustle of evening.

Quiet afternoon street in Habana Viejo

Later, literally from dusk till dawn, this street side bar will be packed with people drinking mojitos and Cuba Libre (rum and cola) and listening to one of the many musical groups that fill the streets with sound in the warm night air.

Midday empty bar in Habana Viejo

But in the slow afternoon, the only person here was this man sorting through the rubble for some useful building materials to use in the un-restored part of Havana, a place where you can see the effects on a beautiful city from no investment in maintaining infrastructure.

Here the walls of a derelict, once grand small villa are held up wooden bracing that is obviously functional but appears to be precarious.

The verandah supports are left – but no verandah, and the carved wooden door is falling inwards.

House  in Havana with wooden bracing on walls

Further on there was more of this same creative style of bracing supporting walls in a central Havana side street.

Timber bracing across street to hold up house wall in Havana

Note the innovative wheeled cart dragging a heavy load. It is no more than a pallet with wheels attached – but it works.

As Thomas Edison said:

To invent, you need a good imagination

and a pile of junk.

These fine old buildings reminded me of grand ladies fallen on hard times and unable to refresh their tired attire.

The car of the same era appears to have similar problems!

Formerly grand buildings with broken down classic care

Havana is a city full of architecture reflective of the days when it was known as the Paris of the Antilles – but some un-restored components still have a touch of the new.

All through Havana the modified Spanish style old gas street lamps are fitted with energy-saving bulbs, like those in front of a still lovely school façade.

School façade and street lamp in Havana

Continuing my wandering, there through an archway was St Francis seeming to be crowned by a hanging iron lamp.

Statue of St . Francis under crown lamp in Havana

In Havana the decay of former grandeur only dims the character of the place, which for me shines through in the people – with their ever ready smiles and their ironic humour, their music and their dance.

The restoration that has been done has set a high standard that the rest of the world could emulate in attention to detail, use of art, and the way historic character is reinterpreted without loss of authenticity – and for its whimsy.

The architect and landscape designer, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe once said

Architecture is to make us know

and remember who we are.

Havana is a city where the character of the place is imprinted within architecture, art, music, dance and the warmth of the people.

Once felt and not just seen, its grandeur and its personality will affect you, change you a little, and stay forever in your memory.


More Havana pages:

Havana Angels

Havana Capitol Building

Havana Creative Transportation

Havana Classic Cars

Havana Political Demonstration

Havana Fish and Philosophy

Havana Street Water-Skiing

Havana Back Street Rambles

Havana Agricultural Fair

Havana The Art of Dominoes

Back to Main Page