The architects

Ricardo Porro in 2006. Photo credit: DINDEA
Original drawing by Ricardo Porro. Ricardo Porro Archive.

Ricardo Porro was born on November 3rd, 1925 in Camaguey. 

He graduates in Architecture at the University of Havana in 1949 and in the same year built this year Villa Armenteros in Havana. Then, he spends two years of postgraduate studies at the Institute of Urban Planning at the Sorbonne. Back to Cuba, in 1952, he realised a series of residencies in Havana: Villa Ennis (1953), Villa San Miguel (1953), Villa Villegas (1953), la casa Garcia (1954), the house Abbot-Villegas (1954) and Timothy Ennis (1957). 

In 1957, Porro publishes an important article, El sentido del la Tradición, in which he highlights the specificity of Cuban architecture, as “una arquitectura negra”. Shortly after, he is forced into exile to Venezuela for his support to the cause of the Cuban Revolution. Here he has been teaching Architecture since 1958 and he has been working at Banco Obrero, in the frame of the project led by the famous architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva. While in Venezuela, Porro met two Italian expatriate architects: Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti. Following the victory of the Cuban Revolution, Porro returned to Cuba and in 1960 was designated by Fidel Castro as the Project Manager for Havana’s new National Art Schools. Porro invited Gottardi and Garatti to join him in the project, for which he designed the School of Modern Dance and the School of Plastic Arts. 

In 1966, Porro he moves to France where he teaches History of Arts and Architecture in Paris, Lille and Strasbourg. His drawings of the Euro – Kursaal in San Sebastian (1965) are very renewed. Amongst the other projects: the architectural competitions for the Paláis de l’air et de l’espace (Paris) and for the University of Villetaneuse, the L’Or du Rhin center (1969) in Vaduz (Liechtenstein), the The Youth House, in Vaduz, a Holiday Village on the Island of Vela Luka, Yugoslavia, and the Esfahan villa, in Iran, 1975. From 1986 he collaborated on extensive architectural works, mainly educational institutions, with architect Renaud de la Noue. His architectural models, made between 1961 and 1980, can be visited at the Museum Les Turbulences FRAC Centre (Fonds Régionaux d’Art Contemporain) in Orleans, France. The Republic of France awarded him, for all his work as an architect, artist and urban planner, the titles of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. In 1994 he was nominated for the Pritzker Prize. In 2012 he received the Vittorio De Sica prize for Architecture for the project of the School of Art, along with Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi. The MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York included original drawings of Ricardo Porro projects The Schools of Art and Dance in Havana in its exhibition “Latin America in Construction: architecture 1955-1980” from March 29 to July 19, 2015 among other important Latin American architects. 

Porro died at the age of 89 in Paris, on December 25th, 2014.

Roberto Gottardi in 2007 Photo credit: Alysa Nahmias.
A sketch by architect Roberto Gottardi

Roberto Gottardi was born on January 30th, 1927 in Venice where he graduates in Architecture in 1952. 

He studied with Albini, Scarpa, Samonà, Astengo and Piccinato. Then he moves to Milan, where he works with the BBPR (Gian Luigi Banfi, Ludovico Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti and Ernesto Nathan Rogers) and then to Venezuela, first to Maracaibo and then to Caracas, where he work as an architect in private practice. In 1957 he worked in the architectural studio, the Banco Obrero, of the renown Carlos Raúl Villanueva. While with Villanueva, Gottardi meet Ricardo Porro and Vittorio Garatti. 

In December 1960 he leaves for Cuba with a contract from the Ministry of Public Works and he becomes a Lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture in Havana. Here, he is involved in the design of Art Schools together with Garatti and Porro, and he follows the building works until 1965. From 1966 to 1968 he designs three restaurants in Havana, but just one of them is actually built: the pizzeria “La Maravilla“. In 1967, he designs the music room in the Cultural Center “La Rampa“, always in Havana and in 1967 the Amphitheater for the International Festival of Popular Song in Varadero. Form 1967 to 1972, he follows the design and building of the headquarters of the “Puesto de Mando“ for the Ministry of Agriculture, in Menocal (1967–72). In the three decades from 1970 to 90s he devotes himself to university teaching, preparing projects and building sets for several ballets, one of his greatest passions. In 1981 he starts working on the remodelling project of Art Schools. In 1997 he builds the restaurant-bar “Prado y Neptuno“ in Havana. 

Starting from 2000, he has been preparing various integration and restoration projects for Art Schools, he has been following the construction sites during restoration, and he often holds lectures and conferences both in Cuba and abroad (Columbia Università in New York, M.I.T. Boston, Graham Foundation Chicago, University of Architecture of Miami) as a Professor in several universities. In 2012 takes part in the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea. Along with Vittorio Garatti and Ricardo Porro, in 2012 Roberto Gottardi was awarded the Vittorio De Sica Award for Architecture by Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano. In 2016 he was awarded the National Award for Architecture by Cuba. 

He died on August 21st, 2017 in Havana.

Vittorio Garatti in 2013. Photo credit: Francesco Stelitano.
Original sketch of the symphonic theatre by Vittorio Garatti

Vittorio Garatti was born on April 6th, 1927. 

He graduates in Architecture in 1957 from the Politecnico di Milano, where Ernesto Nathan Rogers was a major influence. Since then, until 1961, he lives and works in Venezuela and in Cuba from 1961 to 1974. In Venezuela, where he found employment in the Banco Obrero project led by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva where he meets Roberto Gottardi. From 1958 to 1961 he is Professor of Architectural Design at the Faculty of Architecture of the Central University in Caracas. Then in Cuba, he becomes Professor or Architectural Composition and Design (from 1961 to 1967) as well as Urban Planning (from 1968 to 1974) at the Faculty of Architecture (CUJAE) of the University of Havana. In 1961 he co-founds the Cuban Institute of Physic Planning and he starts his studies of planning for urban and territorial development. 

Since 1961, together with Porro and Gottardi, he has been designing the National Schools of Arts in Havana. In 1963, he designs the block of the Technical School of Agriculture Andre’ Voisin in Guines, the first intervention of prefabricated housing in Cuba. In 1966-67, with Sergio Baroni and Hugo d’Acosta, he designed the Cuban pavilion at the Expo 1967 in Montreal. 

Since 1968 he has been drawing up the town plan for the city of Havana (with Jean-Pierre Garnier, Max Vanquero, Eusebio Azque), the detailed plans for the residential department Este de Havana, for the Plaza de la Revolución (with Eusebio Azque), for the new harbour. In June 1974 he went under arrest for twenty days, on charges of spying and later he was forced to leave the country. He believes that his expulsion was the result of a conspiracy with the CIA that was trying to expel the foreign professionals who collaborated with the Cuban regime. Back in Italy, he becomes a self- employed professional. Since 1994, he has been an Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Architecture of the Politecnico di Milano.