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Revolution of Forms: Cuba's Forgotten Art Schoolsby John A. Loomis
Synopses & Reviews
A revolution of forms is a revolution of essentials.-Jos Mart, Cuban intellectual and independence leader.
Although the current surge of interest in Cuba has extended to that country's architecture, few know that the most outstanding architectural achievement of the Cuban Revolution stands neglected just outside Havana.
The Escuelas Nacionales de Arte (National Art Schools), constructed from 1961 to 1965, were the result of an educational program initiated by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara soon after the Revolution of 1959. The architects they commissioned created an organic complex of brick and terra-cotta Catalan vaulted structures that reflected the optimism and exuberance of the period. The schools attempted to reinvent architecture, just as the Revolution hoped to reinvent society. However, even before construction was completed, the schools fell out of official favor and were subjected to an attack that resulted in their subsequent disappearance. An ideological campaign branded them politically incorrect, a bourgeois luxury that was not in keeping with the Revolution. The buildings fell into disuse and, abandoned to the jungle, were literally overgrown. Now, almost 40 years later, Cuba is beginning to recognize and reclaim these significant works of architecture.
Revolution of Forms investigates the history and politics surrounding the creation of these structures as well as their subsequent abandonment. The text is accompanied by archival photographs, plans, and images of the present condition of these structures.
Book News Annotation:
The updated edition of this intriguing and beautiful work on the National Art Schools of Cuba provides information on action and awareness generated by the original printing and explores efforts to restore this politically and physically neglected manifestation of the optimism of the early years of the Cuban revolution. The volume explores the brilliant architecture of the art school complex and includes numerous color photographs of the derelict structures as well as historical photos and architectural drawings. The text also examines the ideological and political conditions that led to the building of the unique facility as well as the forces that led to its abandonment. Loomis is an architect and a professor at San Jose State University, California. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Prior to the publication of Revolution of Forms in 1999, few were aware that the most outstanding architectural achievement of the Cuban Revolution, the Escuelas Nacionales de Arte (National Art School), stoodneglected just outside Havana. Three architects who aimed to reinvent architecture just as the revolution hoped to reinvent society were commissioned. However, before construction was completed, the school was subjected to an ideological attack that branded it as not in keeping with revolutionary ideals. The organic complex of brick and terra-cotta Catalan-vaulted structures was abandoned, until the original publication of Revolution of Forms brought it to the attention of the world and swayed the Cuban government to commit to its restoration. This updated edition of the classic book adds a new preface, epilogue, and a revised chronology to the first edition's numerous photographs, drawings, and interviews.
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