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Constitutional Modernism

Constitutional Modernism: Architecture and Civil Society in Cuba, 1933-1959

Timothy Hyde
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Constitutional Modernism
    Book Description:

    How does architecture make its appearance in civil society?Constitutional Modernismpursues 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 Modernismdemonstrates 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4015-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Constitutionalism and Civil Society
    (pp. 1-18)

    Three photographs on the cover of the March 1955 issue ofArquitecturapresent a trinity of monumental public buildings: the Catedral de la Habana, the Capitolio Nacional, and, superimposed upon the other two, the new Tribunal de Cuentas (Figure 1.1). This grouping of images portrays the seeming inevitability of a progressive development of Cuban architecture from the baroque style of the early colonial period, to the neoclassicism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, to the modernism of the postwar decades. The images evoke also a lineage for the progressive development of the Cuban nation, from its colonial past...


    • 1 The Idealized Republic: The Constitution of 1940
      (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 been drafted and approved, the signing of the constitution was to be a historical performance, a recapitulation and a confirmation of the founding of the Cuban Republic. The very first republican constitution, declaring a sovereign national existence independent of Spanish colonial rule, had...

    • 2 Better Cities, Better Citizens: The Political Function of Planning
      (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 Pedro Martínez Inclán, who served as the association’s first president; Eduardo Montoulieu, an architect who had recently studied city planning at the...

    • 3 A Perfect Structuring: Representing the Nation as Plan and Purpose
      (pp. 69-108)

      Havana was among the first cities to be founded in the new territories of the 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 examples of attempts of the ruling elite to manage in...

  6. II CITY

    • 4 Public Works: Constructing the Urban Spaces of Civil Society
      (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 seed planted 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 “tradition that, in the shade of the big...

    • 5 Master Plans: The Retrospective Order of the Plan Piloto de la Habana
      (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 be acquired, 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: the pilot plan for Varadero was roughly complete and was...

    • 6 Historic Districts: The Regulation of the Past in Habana Vieja
      (pp. 177-210)

      The comprehensive scope of the Plan Piloto de la Habana, its extension over the entire metropolitan area, depended on a regulatory framework 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 contained within fortified walls. These had...


    • 7 The Experience of Civic Conscience: Designs for the Monumento a Martí
      (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 nonrevolutionary writers and artists? Within the Revolution: all; against the Revolution, none.”¹ Immediately after Castro’s coming to power, all of the...

    • 8 The Prospect of cubanidad: Figural Forms and the Palacio de las Palmas
      (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 Nacional and the Palacio de Justicia occupied, respectively, by the legislative and judicial branches of...

  8. Epilogue: Futures of Constitutional Modernism
    (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 works were already under way—but the normative conception proposed by the Plan Piloto required that this important civic element be somehow assimilated into its encompassing order. Three changes to the actual site configuration were to...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 301-302)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 303-336)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 337-350)
  12. Index
    (pp. 351-372)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 373-374)