After the revolution, Fidel Castro ordered the National Art Schools to be built on the site of a country club, a move to enrage wealthy capitalists. The post-embargo material shortage resulted in the curved thin shell brick shell of the School of Modern Dance, designed by Ricardo Porro. This shell reflected the sensuality Castro thought to be unique to the Cuban spirit.
While four other schools were planned, the School of Modern Dance was the only one to come close to completion when Castro pulled funding from the entire project in 1965. The movie “Unfinished Spaces” draws attention the restoration movement of this shell.
The shells of the National Ballet School and the National Dramatic Art School are two of the six thin shell project highlighted in the exhibition “Creativity in Cuban Thin Shell Structures”, currently on display in the Friend’s Library at Princeton University.
The models presented in this exhibition were made by students in the course CEE 463 A Social and Multi-dimensional Exploration of Structures. By focusing on the Cuban shell designs (National Ballet School, National Dramatic Art School, Parque Jose Marti Stadium, Nunez-Galvez tomb , Arcos de Cristal and Tropicana entrance Canopy) the students made engineering analyses and examined the socio-political context in which the shells were realised. In one of our next posts, we will show how that Cuban shell zeitgeist influenced one of the most iconic thin shell structures in the United States of America.
Author: Sigrid Adriaenssens