There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The Cuban revolution may have proven to be a failure, but when Fidel Castro took power in 1959 the country was filled with great hope for the future. It was with that spirit in 1961 that architects Vittorio Garatti, Roberto Gottardi, and Ricardo Porro designed Cuba’s National Art Schools, under direct orders from Castro and Che Guevara. Unfinished Spaces tracks the history of this amazing project, which was built on the grounds of a former private country club. The bold, modernist schools featured interconnected buildings with no single entrances, no dogmatic conceits. But the influence of the Soviet Union soon dominated Cuba, and the art schools were deemed bourgeois. Construction halted, and the National Art Schools soon closed and fell into disrepair. Unfinished Spaces is rife with period photos and films to show the schools in their glory years, as well as recent footage of the overgrown abandoned dreamlands they’ve become. Garatti, Gottardi, and Porro left Cuba in 1965, but they returned in 2009 at the request of an apologetic Castro, who wanted to finish the project. But after two hurricanes in 2009, the schools were once again abandoned. Unfinished Spaces, above all, is the bittersweet epitaph these architectural wonders deserve.