Thursday, May 26, 2011

Our Architectural Patrimony in Danger / Fernando Dámaso

Our Architectural Patrimony in Danger / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Among the many other losses, our architectural patrimony is a constant
throughout the island. Years of lack of maintenance, general apathy, and
the actions of leaders and officials with an excess of initiative but a
lack of a citizen's sensibility, have led to this. Every day we see
buildings that one constituted the hallmarks of our towns and cities
disappear, some demolished, others no longer in the uses for which they
were built.

So we have a Capitol with no practical use, a Presidential Palace in use
as a museum, a rundown Single Market of Supplies, historic ruins where
once there was the Trotcha Hotel, a Campoamor Theater destroyed,
residences turned into rooming houses, vacant lots where there were
palaces and colonial home, a Marti Theater in eternal virtual repair, a
park without public access where once was the Alaska Building, cinemas
recycled as housing, etcetera. The Historian of the City has saved some
in the old town, but the city is not only the historical district and
some isolated buildings.

Now they say that's what they're going to do with the Pedro Borras
Astorga Children's Hospital in El Vedado, a valuable art deco building,
due to its deplorable condition (lack of maintenance) and its having
been seriously affected by the explosions they used to build tunnels in
the vicinity for the shelters (this they do not say), and the Hotel
Internacional in Varadero, the building that is emblematic of the beach.
Many voices of responsible citizens are rising up to prevent their being
demolished, but a lot more should rise up, so that these barbaric acts
do not go forward, and there are already other buildings that face the
same risk .

For some people, to destroy what they didn't build is easy: no feeling
or memory binds them to these buildings. It would be desirable, when
someone intends to demolish something, that they be required to
substantiate the need for demolition and submit the draft of what they
plan to replace it with, and that this be discussed and approved by
experts and authorities, prior to authorization for the first
sledgehammer blow. That would avoid the proliferation of vacant lots,
dump sites, and shabby parks, that don't even deserve to be called such.

Our architectural heritage is an important legacy of our ancestors, our
grandparents and parents. Our duty is to preserve it for ourselves and
for future generations, not demolish it. To talk about aging is
ridiculous: with that criteria the pyramids of Egypt wouldn't exist nor
any of the ancient works carried out by mankind which today are the
pride of the world. Since we failed to maintain and prevent systematic
deterioration, we should at least be capable of not letting them destroy
what little remains standing. It is a simple act of civility, respect
and love for what is ours.

May 23 2011

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