Old World Architecture Graces a Cuban Harbor

The Palacio de Valle is located in Cienfuegos, the second largest harbor in Cuba.  Sometimes referred to at the “Pearl of the South”,  Cienfuegos was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 as a result of the blending of old world architecture and modern urban design.

The Palacio de Valle is a masterpiece of styling, art and history.  When Amparo Suero married a wealthy Cuban businessman, Acisclo Valle, her father gave them Palacio de Valle as a wedding gift.  The couple renovated the property between 1913 and 1917, at a cost of 1 1/2 million pesos.

Italian architect Alfredo Colli, created this masterpiece, incorporating Italian and French into a building which is dominated by the unique character of Moorish style, carvings and color.  The Moslem crescent moon and the words Arabic words meaning “Only God is God” from the Koran, solidify the Moorish influence.

The construction of the building itself relies heavily on Carrara marble, alabaster, Venetian ceramics, Spanish ironwork and the carvings of renowned Spanish artist, Antonio Barcenas to blend much of the beauty of the old world  combining the best of Spanish, Muslim, Italian, French and even Egyptian design.

The exterior reflects the beautiful carvings seen throughout the Arab world.  The Sphinx guarding the main doorway reflect Egyptian symbols.

Bronze railings of Spanish design are seen throughout the interior and exterior of the building.

The art reflects the interconnections of the Muslim and Christian beliefs.  This lovely painting of the Magi, ie. the “Three Kings from the East” focuses on the Magi themselves, relying on the crown to symbolize the Christ child.

This tile Crusader depicts a Christian in full battle attire presumably prepared to fight the Moors.

There is little to explain the reasons for this combination of clashing cultures, representing the images and art of all the involved cultures with beauty, accuracy and respect.  Yet the flow of interweaving of the best of the old world, works effectively, playing the grace of Venice with the power of Spain.  It is not surprising then, that this building, now a restaurant, is itself recognized as a National Heritage Memorial.

By the standards of any religion or influence, the Palacio is a masterpiece.  While the cultural aspects of the building predominate our visit, the timeless beauty of the rooftop bar, with its view of Cienfuegos and the ocean, completed the experience for all of us.

Advertisements

A Day at the Museum: San Francisco’s Legion of Honor

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

San Francisco is full of art and culture. Most of our recent visits into the city have been to see the touristy-type attractions. Pier 39. Ghirardelli. Coit Tower. For our visit this past Saturday with Aunt Carol and Uncle John, we opted for the arts. As our Christmas present from them, the four of us planned a day in the city to visit several museums and have a delicious dinner. Our first stop? The Legion of Honor.

The Legion of Honor is one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. It is located in SF’s Lincoln Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was built as a gift from Alma de Bretteville Spreckels in the 1920s to commemorate the Californian soldiers who lost their lives fighting in France in World War I. The collection of fine art inside the museum is beautiful, and the architecture of the structure itself is equally magnificent.

As we walked around the inside of the museum, I couldn’t help but think how much it reminded me of the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. The architecture is very similar, and both have Rodin’s Thinker! The collections ranged from impressionist paintings to Annie Leibovitz’s photography to ancient Roman sculptures. These were a few of my favorites.

My favorite piece of art in the whole museum is a ceiling in one of the exhibit rooms. The detail is incredible. The ceiling was carved from wood in Spain in the late 1400s-early 1500s during the Moorish occupation. It is one of four removed from the original setting in the Palacio de Altimira in Toledo, in the Torrijos region in Spain.

It was a beautiful day at the museum. With our busy lives, it is nice to be reminded of all the beautiful things to see around us. I believe the arts to be an important factor in maintaining the balance in society. It is hard to argue with the importance of the arts, especially when we see such beauty through the eyes of the artists, enlightening us about their fascinating perspectives on the world. In a lot of ways, it helps us look at the world through new eyes, learn how to see something from someone else’s perspective, and have a little more appreciation for our own world.

Once we left the Legion of Honor, heavy in thought, we made our way over to Golden Gate Park to see the de Young museum. But I will save that exciting experience for next time.