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CLARIN

Fidel’s Unfinished Dream — Massive Art School Is Metaphor For Cuba

Almost there
Almost there
Miguel Jurado

-Analysis-

One of Cuban leader Fidel Castro"s most visionary, and least affordable, projects was the Escuelas Nacionales de Arte or the National Art Schools.

The complex was built on a confiscated golf course that proudly displayed to the world the struggle and passion of Cuba's revolutionary artists. The project, still half-finished 60 years after it was first begun, trained some of the country's most brilliant and promising students. The school, which has detached, hut-like structures made of warm-colored brick, held the spirit of the early days of the Cuban revolution.

In 1961, Castro and his then close associate, Ernesto Che Guevara, commissioned three architects — two Italians and a Cuban — to build the school at the site of a former golf club in Havana. Dancers, musicians and painters began to move into the school even as it was still being built.

The revolution's changing fortunes impeded the school's completion; the government had to move funds to address the country's more pressing needs like housing. Facing a shortage of steel and concrete, architects Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi turned to an "organic" alternative — bricks.

Long and winding road — Photo: TomL1959

The team used this material to build Catalan and tile vaults in the Mediterranean style. The architectural form of the school was free and unusual, which struck a sharp contrast to the dominant modernism of the 1960s, which was a fusion of modernity, colonial tradition and elements of black culture.

Each architect designed a part of the school independently and sought to blend his side with the landscape. Roofed corridors linked the various pavilions.

But beauty came at a cost that the state could not afford. Critics protested that the school was a waste of public money in a socialist economy and that the architecture was too "sensual" and "bourgeois." The project was halted in 1965. Porro went to Paris, Garatti returned to Milan. Gottardi remained in Cuba.

The three were once again invited in 1999 to finish the project. Construction resumed but progress remained slow. For now, it's a beautiful, long overdue work-in-progress.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Shame Of A Nation: History Will Judge Germany For Holding Back Tanks From Ukraine

A retired German general spells out in clear language what the choice is for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and what the long-term consequences of half-hearted support for Kyiv as it battles for survival against the Russian invasion.

Photo of German Army Leopard 2 A7V tanks

German Army Leopard 2 A7V tanks

Klaus Wittmann*

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The German television newscaster cheerfully predicted last Friday morning: “Today the German evasive maneuvers are ending...” And yet, the high-level meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at the Ramstein military base, proved this prophecy completely wrong.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The burning issue of Germany stalling and blocking the approval of battle tank deliveries to Ukraine continues to burn.

As intense as the international pressure was, Berlin has once again refused to make a commitment. Rhetoric about the difference between what one wants and what one can achieve, the endless counterarguments, the citing of numbers...none of it however, make them any more credible. In reality they are excuses, with which Chancellor Olaf Scholz shirks the responsibility which, after all, the great, prosperous Germany will not be able to escape.

[A Sunday evening comment by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that Berlin "would not stand in the way" of other countries providing German-made Leopard tanks is only provisional, and still mentions nothing about Germany sending its own tanks.]

The final decisions are ultimately in the hands of Scholz, and one wonders if he is unable to be swayed from an idea he's committed to. Or perhaps he continues to listen to Angela Merkel’s former advisor, General Erich Vad, who said before authorizing the sending of tanks to Kyiv, it would first have to be clear whether the Russian forces should be driven out of Ukraine at all.

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