Letters of Havana

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“To a certain extent, Havana is a literate city. If we raise our sight and observe carefully some of its beautiful facades, grilles and balconies, we will find out letters and proper nouns of previous owners, or the names of how it was, or it is still known an apartment house, a movie theatre, a boutique, a company”.

“The developing process of Havana city corresponded with the peak of art nouveau firstly, and later with art deco. By that time, there were produced those beautiful attempts to integrate typography to architecture and to public areas. The deficient preservation of many of them does not diminish beauty or meaning to that letters and numbers sculpted on stones, shaped on cement, iron, ceramic, wood, porcelain or neon, fine drawn in glass”.

“Despite the mountains of advertisements and graphic signs that increased during the early 50’s of the 20th century, there was always a place to set, and eyes to admire, the typography on the buildings, because its distinctive mark stood out from everything else around it”.

“The present Havana, heir of those cultural traditions that shaped it since its foundation on 1519, contains a huge variety of architectonic styles that last and stand despite deterioration caused by time and an awful lack of upkeep. However, it is still possible to admire that rich diversity and be amazed by the beauty of its typographic elements, and be able to clearly distinguish all the historical periods of its construction: it is, therefore, an eclectic city, although many people could also define it as one of our best novelist, Alejo Carpentier, did: a style-less city.


By Nelson Herrera Ysla, after an essay on photography by Pepe Menéndez

Published on TM magazine, num. 2 / 2006, p. 36-51.





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