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Our man in Havana: Foster plans work on the Cuban national art school complex.

It is exciting to hear that Norman Foster is to play a part in finishing the ballet school of the Cuban national art school complex to create “The Carlos Acosta Centre for Dance”.

50 years ago Ricardo Porro, a Cuban professor of architecture at Caracas University was appointed by Fidel Castro to lead the project to create a new arts campus. He brought in two Italians to assist: Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti who between them created a visionary plan for the campus on the site of a country club and golf course. Gottardi was the only one of the three primary architects to remain in Cuba after the mid 1960s.

Unfortunately only two schools were ever completed: the plastic arts and the contemporary dance, leaving the drama, ballet and music schools unfinished.

At first glance, Foster might not seem the most likely candidate to complete this great work, but his experience on renovation projects such as the British Museum in London, and the Reichstag in Berlin, count strongly in his favour. By donating a professional study on the proposals Foster has expressed admiration for the original design of Garatti's ballet school and has reportedly promised they will be respected with the new proposals.

The collection of images here, including some of my own taken when I took a group of students to Havana 10 years ago, are mainly of the school of plastic arts. The images give an impression not only of the slightly ragged buildings, but also how they have been used, and the kind of dynamic institutions that have thrived in them.

A new school of Ballet, part of an international philanthropic effort to this centre of excellence, would be a wonderful asset to Cuba and a distinguishing mark on the careers of those who can make it happen.

In the studio space

Lantern to a dome.


A piece of art.

A shady collenade.

Another collenade.



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