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Constitutional Modernism

Architecture and Civil Society in Cuba, 1933-1959

Timothy Hyde

Publication Year: 2013

How does architecture make its appearance in civil society? Constitutional Modernism pursues this challenging question by exploring architecture, planning, and law as cultural forces. Analyzing the complex entanglements between these disciplines in the Cuban Republic, Timothy Hyde reveals how architects joined with other professionals and intellectuals in efforts to establish a stable civil society, from the promulgation of a new Cuban Constitution in 1940 up until the Cuban Revolution.

By arguing that constitutionalism was elaborated through architectural principles and practices as well as legal ones, Hyde offers a new view of architectural modernism as a political and social instrument. He contends that constitutionalism produced a decisive confluence of law and architecture, a means for planning the future of Cuba. The importance of architecture in this process is laid bare by Hyde’s thorough scrutiny of a variety of textual, graphical, and physical artifacts. He examines constitutional articles, exhibitions, interviews, master plans, monuments, and other primary materials as acts of design.

Read from the perspective of architectural history, Constitutional Modernism demonstrates how the modernist concepts that developed as an international discourse before the Second World War evolved through interactions with other disciplines into a civil urbanism in Cuba. And read from the perspective of Cuban history, the book explains how not only material products such as buildings and monuments but also the immaterial methods of architecture as a cultural practice produced ideas that had consequential effects on the political circumstances of the nation.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-9

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pp. 1-18

Three photographs on the cover of the March 1955 issue of Arquitectura present a trinity of monumental public buildings: the Catedral de laHabana, the Capitolio Nacional, and, superimposed upon the other two,the new Tribunal de Cuentas (Figure I.1). This grouping of images portrays the seeming inevitability of a progressive development of Cuban architecturefrom the baroque style of the early colonial period, to the neoclassicism of thelate nineteenth and early twentieth century, to the modernism of the postwar...

I Constitution

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pp. 19-29

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1 The Idealized Republic: The Constitution of 1940

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pp. 21-38

On July 1, 1940, the seventy delegates of the Constitutional Convention traveled to the eastern province of Camagüey, to the small town of Guáimaro, to ratify the new Cuban constitution with their signatures.The convention had met without interruption in the Capitolio Nacional in Havana for the preceding five months, and now that the fundamental law had beendrafted and approved, the signing of the constitution was to be a historical performance, a recapitulation and a confirmation of the founding of the Cuban...

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2 Better Cities, Better Citizens: The Political Function of Planning

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pp. 39-68

In 1942 the polished propaganda of a new civic organization, the Patronato Pro-Urbanismo (Pro-Urbanism Association), initiated an appeal for a synthetic program of planning to be instituted under the authority of a national planning law, with the group’s manifesto pointing out that nine of the articles of the new constitution either required or presupposed regulatory activities commensurate with the concept of planning.1 The Patronato was founded by five individuals with overlapping concerns in civic and professional activities: architect...

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3 A Perfect Structuring: Representing the Nation as Plan and Purpose

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pp. 69-108

Havana was among the first cities to be founded in the new territories ofthe Spanish empire, well prior to the 1573 compilation of the royal ordinances known as Las Leyes de Indias (Laws of the Indies), so it was not as a matter of causation that the Laws of the Indies would have caught the attention of twentieth-century Cuban architects or planners.1 But in their other respects—as historically contingent constitutive statutes, as reminders of the continuous presence of the law as a discursive form in Cuba, as earlier exam-...


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pp. 109-119

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4 Public Works: Constructing the Urban Spaces of Civil Society

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pp. 111-138

In 1928 in Havana, in a small park ringed with palm trees and facing the south hemicycle of the Capitolio Nacional, a ceiba tree was planted and dedicated as the Árbol de la Fraternidad Americana (Tree of American Brotherhood) to represent not only a union of nations, but the narrative of Cuba’s emergence into that community (Figure 4.1). It had been grown from a seedplanted at ceremonies held in 1902 to inaugurate the new republic, a ritual that itself recalled the traditional founding of the city of Havana in 1519, the “tradi-...

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5 Master Plans: The Retrospective Order of the Plan Piloto de la Habana

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pp. 139-176

Paul Lester Wiener traveled to Havana in June 1955 and remained there for the rest of the summer working in the office of the JNP; he returned again in the fall, and stayed in Cuba from November through January the following year. During these residencies, Wiener helped devise the initial work program for the divisions of the JNP, specifying what data were to beacquired, what maps should be drawn, and what charts and diagrams should be developed. He also closely directed the design work of two master plan projects:...

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6 Historic Districts: The Regulation of the Past in Habana Vieja

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pp. 177-210

The comprehensive scope of the Plan Piloto de la Habana, its extension over the entire metropolitan area, depended on a regulatory frame work that did not yet exist. It presumed the unification of the city at some level above the existing municipalities, and also presumed the consolidation of the authority of the JNP over rival agencies or interests. In perhaps no other area of the city were the claims as layered as in the old colonial quarter, Habana Vieja.Habana Vieja was the appellation that referred to the area of the city that had been...


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pp. 211-221

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7 The Experience of Civic Conscience: Designs for the Monumento a Marti

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pp. 213-252

The enactment of civil society undertaken by citizens during the republican period included both affirmative and oppositional actions, the casting of ballots, for example, as well as participation in strikes. In the context of the revolutionary period that followed after 1959, the performances of civil society possessed a different valence entirely, bracketed by their political setting. As Fidel Castro would phrase it in a speech to intellectuals in the summer of 1961: “What are the rights of revolutionary or non-revolutionary writers and artists?...

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8 The Prospect of cubanidad: Figural Forms and the Palacio de las Palmas

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pp. 253-288

Under a Havana dateline on July 18, 1957, Cuban newspapers reported General Batista’s unveiling of the design for the Palacio de las Palmas(Palace of the Palms) (see Plate 10, Figure 8.1). This new presidential palace was to accommodate all of the components of the executive branch—the offices of the presidential ministry, facilities for the press, formal reception halls, and the private residence of the president and his family. It would, declared Batista, fulfill the executive’s need for a building comparable to the Capitolio...

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Epilogue: Futures of Constitutional Modernism

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pp. 289-300

In the final version, printed at the very end of 1958, the Plan Piloto de la Habana included an alternative organization of the space surrounding the Monumento a Martí on the Loma de los Catalanes. It would have been clear when Wiener, Sert, and Romañach commenced the Plan Piloto in 1955 that the monument designed by Labatut and his colleagues would be realized—its workswere already under way—but the normative conception proposed by the PlanPiloto required that this important civic element be somehow assimilated into...

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pp. 301-302

Conducting research on twentieth-century Cuba as an estadounidense scholar can be a complex endeavor, so I express my gratitude to several institutions and the many individuals in Cuba and elsewhere who made available to me their time, expertise, archival materials, and personal recollections, and who, in gen-Archivists, librarians, and staff at the Archivo Nacional de Cuba; the Biblioteca...


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pp. 303-336


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pp. 337-350


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pp. 351-383

E-ISBN-13: 9781452940151
E-ISBN-10: 1452940150
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816678112

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013