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After the sun architecture is probably the single most important attraction for tourism to Cuba. Visitors relish in old buildings, staggeringly extravagant and avant-garde buildings spread the length and breadth of the country. Cuban architecture stands out in a very special way forming the island's environmental identity, mostly in the colonial cities. The Hispanic model, from the popular architecture in Southern Spain, was soon adopted to fulfil the requirements of living in this tropical climate. It is architecture of wide windows and balconies that make the house approachable and open. The use of light-screening elements gives the houses a very peculiar tone through grates and stained-glass windows. The excellent writer Alejo Carpentier called Havana "the city of pillars", because of the wide portals in the main avenues and squares. Contrasts of texture and colour are created on the facades, with the red roof-tiles and turned wood in the balustrade of the balconies. During the 19th century, the neo-classic style offered a touch of distinction to the architecture of the native bourgeoisie. Evidence of this artistic design can be found at the Palacio de Aldama and the Calzada del Cerro.

Several architectonic styles influenced the urban spaces during the 20th century. The art nouveau era imported by Catalonian artists; the eclecticism that imposes and generalises itself; the neo-historicism and the art deco, which introduced the modern movement of rationalist style. All of our cities, especially Havana, offer buildings of high patrimonial value due to the combination of multiple styles that come together in a cosmopolitan visual delight.

The system of military fortresses in the city and around the country is especially attractive to visitors. The fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, the biggest in America, and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, first bulwark castle in the continent, are both in Havana. Others that can be visited are the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and the Castillo de la Punta, in Havana; Castillo de Jagua in Cienfuegos; San Pedro de la Roca in Santiago de Cuba and Fuerte de Matachin in Baracoa. We could not leave this piece without writing about Havana's famous Malicon, currently under refurbishment, and due to be finished at the end of 2000. This multicoloured mish-mash of architecture is the focus of 100's of thousand of photos annually.

Two Cuban cities, Old Havana and Trinidad, were proclaimed as Patrimony of Humanity for the way they preserve their high architectonic values. Visiting Old Havana today is a truly rewarding experience and one high on the list of both architects and tourists worldwide.


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