Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Havana's Ringstrasse

Cambridge, January 15, 2013

Yes, Havana's Ringstrasse, it's not a mistake.  Like Vienna, Havana kept its fortifications way past their useful military life.  By the mid 19th century the city walls had became obsolete, little more than a barrier between Habana Vieja and the growing neighborhood of Centro Habana to the west.  And just like the Austrian capital, Havana decided to demolish its old defensive system, opening a large swat of prime urban land for development.

Arching around the old colonial city, this new district was built at a much grander scale that its adjacent areas, with civic and commercial buildings often taking entire blocks, and a sequence of tree-lined avenues, squares and parks, as if it were a tropical segment of Vienna's Ringstrasse that stops as it reaches the waters of the Gulf.

The main open space of the district, Parque Central, is a large rectangle carefully aligned with Obispo, one of the main streets in Old Havana to the east.  The square's northwest corner happily connects to Paseo del Prado, a wide boulevard that preceded the demolition of the walls (it was called Alameda de Extramuros, literally meaning "boulevard outside the walls.")  The district is anchored by the monumental Nacional Capitol kitty-corners with Parque Central to the south.  Other major buildings include hotels (Inglaterra, Plaza,) theaters and social centers (Centro Gallego with the Tacón theater, Centro Asturiano,) arcaded commercial blocks (Manzana de Gómez) and the Presidential Palace at the north end.

No comments :

Post a Comment