SAH Blog

  • 2018 Edilia and François-Auguste de Montêquin Senior Scholar Fellowship Report

    By
    Dr Laura Fernández-González, Senior Lecturer in Architectural History, School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln (UK)
     |
    Jul 29, 2019

    Dates: April–June 2019
    Locations: Havana and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

    The generous support of the 2018 Edilia and François-Auguste de Montêquin Senior Scholar Fellowship offered by the Society of Architectural Historians has enabled me to undertake extensive archival research and fieldwork in Cuba in April–June 2019. My project for the Montêquin fellowship, ‘Architecture, Empire and Public Rituals in Early Modern Havana and Santiago de Cuba’, explores architectural and urban development in both locales through the lens of public rituals with a view to comparing similar processes in other cities, for example, Seville. Public rituals had a major impact on the urban and architectural development of early modern cities and there has not been any study to date that explores comparatively the impact of empire on the built environment and ritual life of the port-cities that received and saw the departure of convoys to and from the Americas. The research I have undertaken as part of this fellowship forms part of a book project tentatively entitled Entangled Imperial Cities in the Early Modern Iberian World that examines architecture and ritual not only in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Seville (i.e., some of the main city-ports in Spanish-American navigational route) but also compares analogous processes in Lisbon and Old Goa (i.e., on the Portuguese-Indian navigational route).1 Lisbon and Old Goa were the two main Eurasian city-ports from which the convoys to and from India departed and arrived. The impact of empire can be arguably charted through an analysis of the architectural development and ritual life in these locales.

    The Portuguese philosopher and historian Damião de Góis (1502–1574) claimed that the cities of Seville and Lisbon were ‘the queens of the ocean’, a metaphor that underscored the role of both ports on the main navigational routes within the Iberian world.2 The strategic location of Goa (now Old Goa) in the Indian Ocean was considered crucial for the Portuguese trade in India, so much so that the city was called the Chave de Toda a India (the Key to All India).3 In the same vein, the significance of Havana to the Spanish imperial enterprise was crucial for it provided access to New Spain; the regidor of Havana, José Martín Félix de Arrate, in his famous manuscript of the history of the city of 1761 called Havana the Llave del Nuevo Mundo (the Key to the New World).4 The wealth of the Americas (and the world) travelled through Havana en route to Seville and to New Spain. Because Santiago de Cuba was the main port on the island before the seat of government moved to Havana in the sixteenth century, charting its architectural development is also useful for comparative analysis. The wealth of India and the East travelled in convoys from Old Goa towards the famous market in Lisbon, while from Goa goods were also redistributed elsewhere to Asian ports (and vice versa). This book compares the impact of empire and transoceanic communication on the architectural development and ritual life of some of the most significant city-ports of the early modern Iberian world. The theoretical framework of this project adheres to the practice of ‘connected’ or ‘entangled’ architectural histories, a methodology that crosses the boundaries of modern nation-states and aims to de-centre our understanding of the early modern world. Thus the fieldwork and archival research I was able to undertake as part of the funded project by the Society of Architectural Historians has been pivotal for the advancement of my Entangled Imperial Cities book project. It has also allowed me to include some considerations on the built environment of early modern Havana in an article entitled ‘Architectural Hybrids? Building, Law and Architectural Design in the Early Modern Iberian World’ which is forthcoming with Renaissance Studies.5

    Church of the Espíritu Santo

    Church of the Espíritu Santo
    Figures 1 and 2. Interior of the Church of the Espíritu Santo, considered the oldest surviving religious structure in Havana. This is a small yet fascinating church, which was built in the seventeenth century (and restored thereafter). Observe the design of vaulting on the apse, which echoes examples found elsewhere in the Iberian World. Photographs by author.

    I spent the vast majority of my time visiting buildings and researching in archival and library repositories, for about six weeks in Havana, and one week in Santiago de Cuba. In Havana I explored the spaces and buildings within and outside the colonial city wall. I also undertook extensive archival research in the rich cartographic collections and consulted the Actas Capitulares of the Concejo de San Cristóbal de la Habana (the records of the local council of Havana), both of which are kept at the Archive of the Oficina del Historiador de la Habana. The Actas meticulously record the reception of governors, the festival culture of the city and the buildings erected in the city (including houses, palatial structures, as well as churches, convents and monasteries). The warm welcome and support from all staff members at the Oficina were instrumental in the success of my project. I am extremely grateful to Dr Eusebio Leal Spengler, Director of the Oficina del Historiador de la Habana, for hosting my research stay as a Visiting Scholar; his kind support enabled me to conduct research in archives and libraries in the Isle of Cuba.6 In the Archive at the Oficina I was able to chart the local council records concerning the built environment and public rituals between 1550 and 1654 approximately, but I have consulted (or obtained copies of) many historical records from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I also benefitted from the generosity and kindness of staff at the Archivo Histórico Nacional and was able to further explore the records pertaining particularly to convents and monasteries in Havana and also Santiago de Cuba. In Santiago de Cuba, on a shorter trip lasting one week, I was able to greatly advance my work at the Centro de Documentación of the Oficina del Conservador, which has a rich collection of architectural plans, and reports on domestic and religious architecture. Research in archives and libraries will have a positive impact on my book project. In the Library of the Oficina del Historiador I was able to consult a wealth of publications; the literature on architectural history of Isle and Havana in particular is rich. As part of my research I did extensive fieldwork in both cities, particularly Havana, but also Santiago de Cuba.

    The architecture of all ages in Havana is stunning, regardless of the contrasting state of conservation; the city can pride itself on the rich architectural heritage it possesses that ranges from sixteenth-century forts to delightful Art Deco buildings or residential architecture that boasts modernist design. Santiago de Cuba, a smaller city, also boasts impressive buildings. The majority of my photographs focus on colonial architecture. I spent the greater part of my time in these buildings and spaces as the images below illustrate.

    Cathedral of Havana
    Figure 3 Dome (interior) at the Cathedral of Havana. A fine example of Havana’s baroque. The Cathedral was erected in the late eighteenth century on the grounds of the former Society of Jesus buildings in Havana. Photograph by author.

    Colegio Seminario de San Carlos
    Figure 4 Cloister of the old Colegio Seminario de San Carlos in Havana. Founded originally in 1689, the School (Colegio) also occupies the grounds of the Jesuit properties in the city (and is adjacent to the Cathedral of Havana). The Jesuit building was completed in 1767, the year in which the Society of Jesus was suppressed from the Isle of Cuba (and the rest of the Spanish empire). The building underwent important reforms thereafter. Photograph by author.

    Capitanes Generales Palace
    Figure 5 Vista of the Capitanes Generales Palace (foreground), the attic of the Segundo Cabo Palace and the Cabaña Fortress at the far end. The Plaza de Armas is found to the right-hand side of the Capitanes Generales Palace. Photograph by author.

    Segundo Cabo Palace

    Segundo Cabo Palace
    Figures 6 and 7 Patio and Main Hall (respectively) of the Segundo Cabo Palace in Havana. The building recently restored as a museum is a fine example of Havana’s neoclassical eighteenth-century governmental building. The palace is located in the Plaza de Armas and adjacent to the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Photographs by author.

    Museo de la Cerámica

    Museo de la Cerámica
    Figures 8 and 9 The current Museo de la Cerámica in Havana in what was a house of an eighteenth-century merchant. The products were sold on the ground floor and the family quarters were located on the first floor. The image of the staircase shows the division of the house with the wooden work. The second image showcases the sophisticated woodwork found in the roofs of residential and commercial buildings erected in Havana in the eighteenth century. Photographs by author.

    House of Diego de Velázquez
    Figure 10 Interior of the House of Diego de Velázquez in Santiago de Cuba. This building is the oldest structure in the city, fully transformed in the early twentieth-century with a restoration project which saved the building from demolition and re-created domestic interiors. Photograph by author.

    Castillo del Morro
    Figure 11 Vista of the Castillo del Morro in Santiago de Cuba and the Caribbean Sea. Photograph by author.

    Basilica of Nuestra Señora
    Figure 12 Interior of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, in the town of El Cobre in the vicinity of Santiago de Cuba. Photograph by author.



    1 The 2018 Edilia and François-Auguste de Montêquin Senior Scholar Fellowship awarded by the Society of Architectural Historians has funded research in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In addition, a generous research grant awarded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust 2017-19 has allowed me to fund research travel to Lisbon and Old Goa and to undertake fieldwork in other locales and buildings sites in Goa, India. I was able to undertake extensive fieldwork in Cuba (and in the Iberian Peninsula and India) having been generously granted a one-semester research leave (from January 2019) by the College of Arts-School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln, UK.

    2 Damião de Góis, Urbis Olisiponis Descriptio, Évora, André de Burgos, 1554, p.3. A translation into English can be found in J.S. Ruth, Lisbon in the Renaissance. Damião de Góis. A New Translation of the Urbis Olisiponis Descriptio (New York, 1996).

    3 See for example, Catarina Madeira Santos, Goa E a Chave de Toda a India: Perfil Politico Da Capital Do Estado Da India, 1505-1570, (Lisbon, 1999).

    4 The manuscript is entitled: Llave del Nuevo mundo, antemural de las Indias Occidentales. La Habana descripta: Noticias de su fundación aumentos y estados has been published in print on several occasions since 1830, and is now also reproduced in digital form.

    5 This article is part of a Special Issue I have co-edited with Dr Marjorie Trusted entiled ‘Visual and Spatial Hibridity in the Early Modern Iberian World’ forthcoming with Renaissance Studies.

    6 I would also like to extend my thanks in the Oficina to Dr Michael González (Director of Heritage), Dr Grisell Terrón (Director of Collections) and Inés María López (International Office) for their warm welcome, support and friendship. I enjoyed and learned much from the conversations with peer architectural historians, particularly Dr Alicia García Santana (Cuban Academy of History) and Dr Maria Victoria Zardoya (Architecture, Universidad Technológica de la Havana - José Antonio Echevarría). In addition, my thanks go to Alexis, Natasha, Ana Lourdes, Marisa, Maite, Alaina (and many more) also at the Oficina, who made my work both possible and enjoyable. I am also grateful for the friendly support of the staff at the Archivo Nacional de Cuba. In Santiago de Cuba I must thank colleagues at the Oficina del Conservador.

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  • Take a Stand: Architecture Matters

    By
    Swati Chattopadhyay, Marta Gutman, Zeynep Kezer, Matthew Lasner
     |
    Jul 22, 2019

    On June 24, 2019, we launched PLATFORM, a new digital venue for public conversations about architecture, the built environment, and landscape. It features timely short essays organized into six sectionsFinding, House Histories, Opinion, Reading /Listening/Watching, Specifying, and Teaching/Working—that serve as entry points into different realms of discussion, and address different constituencies and interests. Our goal is to reach a broader audience than academics and professionals working on architecture and urbanism, because we believe that the built environment is too important to be confined to scholarly and professional silos. PLATFORM, explicitly outward-facing, is thus a work of public humanities, designed to allow writers in our fields to shed light on a range of contemporary concerns. As a digital forum, it leverages the capabilities of new media to facilitate this conversation.

    PLATFORM is an invitation to take a stand. We want our contributors and readers to assess critically how the built environment affects us, and to consider how people around the world are using space as an instrument of change. We want all of us—readers, editors, and contributors--to reckon with how knowledge about architecture and the environment is disseminated, what our culture teaches us to see, and what it asks us to ignore. We encourage readers to intervene, to interpret, and to use space to achieve democratizing, liberatory aims.

    PLATFORM

    Beginnings     

    The idea of a new kind of digital venue for conversation on the built environment was first broached at Architectural History Redefined, a conference hosted to honor the scholarship of Dell Upton at the Bernard and Ann Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York (CCNY), on April 13–14, 2018. The conference, spearheaded by Marta Gutman, brought together Upton’s former and current students and colleagues with CCNY students and faculty, as well as scholars from other institutions in New York and beyond. Upton’s work has transformed how scholars approach ordinary lives and everyday landscapes. The symposium provided the rare opportunity to showcase and discuss the propagation and evolution of this approach through the work of his students and colleagues located in a variety of institutions and regions across the world. The format of the panels comprising five-minute presentations followed by a discussion, produced engaging conversations on a range of topics from design and pedagogy to the history of colonialism and racism, teaching in the classroom, in national parks, and in the prison, and architecture and cities as public culture.

    At the concluding roundtable of the conference, Mary McLeod suggested that this critical conversation—and approaches to the built environment that emphasize the social and political, more broadly—should be shared with a larger public. At the Society of Architectural Historians annual conference, a week later, Swati Chattopadhyay, Marta Gutman, Zeynep Kezer, and Jeremy White met to discuss plans and possibilities. These initial conversations grew into a more coherent scheme with William Littmann and Matthew Lasner on board, and supported by peers who reviewed the ideas and shared their views.

    Our objective is not to replicate the format of an academic journal, but to offer an alternative venue for timely, provocative, and diverse exchanges on the role of the built environment and space.

    Timely

    PLATFORM invites timely conversations about why and how architecture and space matter. We want to convey the excitement of how architecture transforms us, our thoughts, and actions: why an archival discovery is so important today, and how a field-trip changes the optics through which we see the world moving forward. We want to illustrate how buildings, landscapes, and places, contemporary and historical, help us make sense of current events, inside and outside the architecture world, from questions about the West Bank, borderlands, and international airspace, to the challenges of urban decay and housing. We want to examine cutting-edge methods and tools for analyzing space. We want to stimulate urgent conversations about how and what we teach.

    The leading venues in our fields—peer reviewed journals, popular and professional design journals, university and design presses—operate slowly, by necessity. Even on-line. But this process cannot be responsive to rapidly developing events. Where can we share work quickly—in as little as a week or two? Where can we discuss breaking news? Urgent discoveries? PLATFORM is that place.

    Provocative

    The form of communication is just as vital as the content of communication. We publish short-form essays and digital content (audio, photos, video, and data visualization) that facilitate discussions about the here and now, and how we relate to the past, to history, and our legacies at the present moment.

    Articles and monographs provide an indispensable outlet for communicating thoroughly researched and annotated scholarship that has also gone through the thoughtful scrutiny of peer reviewers. PLAFTORM’s format accommodates short-form writing that is not generally available elsewhere. Where can we share thoughtful musings on a serendipitously encountered piece of evidence that cannot be stretched to a reasonable article length? Where can we share our excitement about a new book, documentary, or exhibition with just a brief critical description? Where can we find the opportunity for working through issues that are pressing or controversial? Where is the forum for provocation—a provocation to think earnestly, immediately, and to engage in challenging conversations in the company of similarly curious and interested minds? PLATFORM is that place.

    Diverse

    We at PLATFORM are interested in all scales of the built environment from that of the interior and building detail to that of the city, region, and planetary. Diversity of content, however, demands diverse audiences—and contributors.

    PLATFORM is broad in perspective and interdisciplinary in orientation. We invite writers from the Global South and North and from across professions and disciplines. We want to attract novices as well as old hands. We are not a closed or finite group. Unsolicited work is welcome. You do not need to have gone to school with the editors, be an architect, an architectural historian, or an academic to join the conversation. We value the diversity of opinions about how we view, read, experience, and engage with the built and natural landscapes. PLATFORM crosses disciplinary divides and is explicitly international.

    We hope you will read PLATFORM, contribute to it, and help us build this conversation. Help us make a stand. Architecture matters.

    Go comment!
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