John Loomis, FAIA Lecture and Book Signing of "Revolution of Forms, Cuba's Forgotten Art Schools"

John Loomis, FAIA, will present a lecture on his critically acclaimed book, "Revolution of Forms, Cuba’s Forgotten Art Schools" (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011), which tells the story of the most outstanding architectural achievement of the Cuban Revolution, which for many years stood neglected in the western suburbs of Havana. The Escuelas Nacionales de Arte (National Art Schools) were conceived and initiated by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara soon after the Revolution’s victory, in a burst of utopian optimism. The schools represent an attempt on the part of their three architects: Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi , and Vittorio Garatti to reinvent architecture, just as the Revolution hoped to reinvent society. Moreover, the architects sought to integrate issues of culture, ethnicity, and place into a revolutionary formal composition hitherto unknown in architecture.
But in a short time the art schools and their architects fell out of favor and were subjected to attacks that resulted in the schools’ subsequent “disappearance”, and the departure of two of the three architects. Today, the organic complex of brick and terra–cotta Catalan vaulted structures lies in various stages of use and abandonment, some parts until recently literally overgrown by the jungle. They are a testament to a unique moment in a utopian dream that succumbed to dystopian reality. Ultimately, redemption came, and the National Art Schools are now officially recognized by the Cuban government as national treasures.
Revolution of Forms takes the reader from that euphoric moment of the beginning of the schools through the subsequent convergence and collision of architecture, ideology, and culture in 1960’s Cuba. To get another insight into that unique moment in which the schools were created, this link will take you to Variaciones, an elegant little work of cinema–graphic poetry by the young Humberto Solás, later acclaimed director of Fresa y Chocolate and other internationally renowned films.
All attendees who arrive before 7:15 will enjoy FREE admission and are requested to stay for the Hidden ARTifacts closing reception and Special announcement immediately following.
John Loomis, FAIA practiced architecture in New York with Kiss, Cathcart, Architects, a leader in the development and integration of photovoltaic technologies into building systems. He taught architecture at The City College of New York/CUNY. Moving to California he chaired the Architecture Program at the California College of Art. He has also taught at Stanford University and University of San Francisco. He is currently a professor at San José State University.
He is former Director of Development and Communications for CyArk, a project of the Kacyra Family Foundation, which brings laser scanning and other advanced geospatial technologies to the preservation of world heritage sites.
In June 2002, John Loomis co–chaired with Marisa Oliver the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture International Conference, Architecture, Culture, and the Challenges of Globalization, in Havana. In December 2002 he was a member of the California Business and Trade Delegation to Cuba.
In addition to Revolution of Forms, he has authored over thirty articles, which have appeared inDesign Book Review where he was executive editor, Casabella, Harvard Design Magazine, Progressive Architecture, Urban Land, San Francisco Chronicle and other journals. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute and a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University.