'Unfinished Spaces': a rocky affair between art and the Cuban Revolution

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What role does art play in a nation’s identity? How do architects help shape that identity? And how should the state be involved? These are the questions asked by Unfinished Spaces, a documentary airing this Friday on VOCES, the PBS Latino arts and culture series.

In 1961, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara played a round of golf on the course of an elite country club in Havana. There, they decided to build “the most beautiful academy of arts in the world.” They commissioned three visionary architects to create Cuba’s National Art School on the grounds of that golf course. Architect Ricardo Porro describes it as a “romantic moment of the Revolution.”

Unfinished Spaces is conventional in form, with an even mix of archive footage and interviews. It will not shock or shake you of your opinion, but this piece of history stirs the heart. The creations of Porro, Roberto Gottardi, and Vittorio Garatti are wondrous. And while the archive images of Cuba, post-revolution, are always fresh and timeless, I wanted to see more lush and creative footage of the schools. Their designs, like the dreams of the revolution, are both exhilarating and tragic.

As the title alludes, the buildings were never finished after Cuba became Sovietized. The architecture was to reflect the values of the revolution — an open design representing integration and interconnectedness. Today, the school is in use, but the unfinished buildings are decaying. — Joy-Marie Scott

Unfinished Spaces

***

Dir. Benjamin Murray, Alysa Nahmias; feat. Vittorio Garatti, Roberto Gottardi, Ricardo Porro

10pm Fri, Oct 12

PBS

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