Havana’s Amazing Art Deco – Vedado Guide

Our last installment ended at Hotel Nacional. While not Art Deco, the hotel has much to recommend it, including a very good breakfast buffet and a beautiful ocean view. The Nacional has history too, having hosted mobsters, politicians and actors. I leave it to you to decide how many categories that makes.

Leaving the Nacional, there is Art Deco in all directions. Well, except behind the hotel where you will find the Straits of Florida. If you stand with your back to the hotel (you’re facing south), 2-3 blocks to your left is the College of Architects at the corner of Humbolt & 104 Street. I confess I’ve never been inside because I always seem to get there on a Sunday but it has a terrific spiral staircase and lots of glass block. The inside looks like a lobby in Miami Beach, which isn’t very far away.

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College of Architects, Humbolt St and 104 Street.

Speaking of spiral staircases, if you exit the Hotel Nacional and walk directly across the street, you’ll come to the Cuervo-Rubio apartments. The floor plan is a series of doughnuts and from the lobby, you can see all the way to the roof, or vice versa. It’s difficult to explain but very dramatic.

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Doughnut shaped floor, Cuervo-Rubio apartments (directly across from Hotel Nacional).

The building is also home to what must be the most photographed staircase in Cuba. Be sure to take your best shot.

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Stairs, Cuervo-Rubio apartments.

The third way to exit the Nacional, to your right, takes you to Edificio Lopez Serrano, Havana’s most impressive Art Deco apartment building (#108 – 13th Street at L Street). There’s a great looking Casa Particular here but the name escapes me.

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Lopez Serrano building, 108 – 13th Street at L Street.

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Panel, Lopez Serano lobby. This used to include a clock but in Havana it’s probably more appropriate without one. 

From here, I would head south to Cementario Colon, stopping along the way at the Catalina Lasa mansion, now known as Casa de la Amistad, at #406 Paseo between 17th & 19th. Check before you go to make sure it’s open because you’ll want to see the inside, which is Art Deco, not the outside, which isn’t. Paseo is also home to the Hilda Saara residence, at 19th Street, with yet another spectacular staircase. Neither of these homes is currently a private residence however the Saara house is used by a government agency and may or may not allow photos.

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Main dining room, Catalina Lasa house, now known as Casa de la Amistad. #406 Paseo between 17th/19th.

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Sandblasted window, Catarina Lasa house.

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Outdoor chandelier, Catarina Lasa house.

South of the Lasa house lies the cemetary. Despite it’s manageable size, there are wonderful monuments in all styles including some Art Deco and a few Egyptian Revival.

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Cementario Colon

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Cementario Colon (with infrared camera)

The cemetary makes a good landmark because roughly across from it’s northwestern corner you’ll find the charming Edificio Triangulo apartments at the corner of Calle 20 and 23rd Street. Next, hidden behind some bushes is the Emilio Vasconcelos house at #1208 – 21st Street. Finally, there is the tiny, streamlined Mercedes L. Navarro house at #1656 – 23rd Street.

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Emilio Vasconcelos residence, 1208 – 21st Street between 18th/20th Streets.

Of course there’s much more and if you’ve made these stops, you’ll have passed a lot of it. Avenidas 21, 31, 41, Linea, Paseo are all great. At the very least, we’ve spent a full day. Next stop, Miramar and Kholy.

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2 Responses to Havana’s Amazing Art Deco – Vedado Guide

  1. Barbara Romero says:

    Hello Randy,
    I’m planning a trip to Habana in December and I would love to visit all these beautiful locations mentioned in this post. I understand that there is a previous post, could you please send me the link? Any tips you could offer would be great appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Barbara

    • Randy Juster says:

      Hi Barbara – There are four other posts on Havana and you should be able to get to them here: http://www.decopix.com/?s=havana If that doesn’t work, let me know. The most useful one is probably the post with the GoogleMap. Some things are changing so fast, I hesitate to give advice but it’s hard to go wrong in Havana. It’s one of those places where, even if you get lost there are interesting things to see. If you’re a real architecture buff, I recommend The Havana Guide by Eduardo Luis Rodriguez. Enjoy!

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