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Well attended Docomomo US/Chicago lecture on Cuban Modernism at IIT and first Chicago chapter meeting for 2016.

By Serge Ambrose, Chair, Docomomo US/Chicago

The Docomomo US/Chicago chapter is being reenergized and kicked off the spring season with a chapter meeting and lecture on the conservation of Mid-Century Modernism in Cuba.

Wilfredo Rodriguez speaking at IIT, May 2016. Credit: IIT Ph.D. Program in Architecture.

Docomomo US/Chicago presented a lecture by Cuban architect Wilfredo Rodriguez Ramos at the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago on Monday, May 16, 2016. The lecture was hosted by the IIT Ph.D. Program in Architecture.

Conserving Mid-Century Modernism: The Cuban Experience looked at examples of Cuban modernist architecture from the 1930’s to the 1970’s and the current issues surrounding conservation efforts by architects, preservationists and government agencies on the island nation of Cuba. Mr. Rodriguez Ramos explained that over the past two decades, the Cuban government has primarily focused attention on the conservation and restoration of the island's historic colonial architecture. Recently though, Cuban architects and preservation activists are increasingly vocal about the need to conserve buildings from the recent past. Several examples of important Cuban modernist architecture were shown including the Habana Riviera by Polevitzky, Johnson and Assoc., 1957 and the Habana Hilton (now Habana Libre) by Welton Becket, 1958, both in Havana. In Camagüey, a city in central Cuba, where Mr. Rodriguez Ramos is based, examples included the Bauhaus meets Soviet megastructure, Vocacional de Camagüey by Reinaldo Togores, 1976 and the several works by Camagüey architect Germán Delamartter-Scott who moved to the U.S. in the early 1960’s and worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago.

The speaker, Wilfredo Rodriguez Ramos is an architect and project director at EPIA ONCE in Camagüey, Cuba. He is the president and founder of DOCOMOMO Cuba-Camagüey and the executive secretary and founder of the Art Deco Society of Camagüey.

(Left) Lecture poster, IIT College of Architecture. Credit: IIT Architecture, Publications (Right) Habana Hilton, Havana, Cuba, Welton Becket Assoc., 1958. Credit: History Miami Archives

Prior to the lecture, the Docomomo US/Chicago chapter steering committee met to discuss chapter organization, advocacy efforts, and future programming. The chapter is being reenergized and is looking for new members: individuals, institutions and companies to work together to identify, document and educate the public about modern architecture in Chicago and the surrounding region. The committee will begin working on advocacy and awareness for McCormick Place Lakeside designed by Gene Summers of C. F. Murphy & Assoc. and completed in 1971.

In attendance were Serge Ambrose, Architect and Docomomo US/Chicago Chair, Gunny Harboe, Architect and Docomomo US Board member, Marc Boxerman, Attorney, Jeff Mercer, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Lisa DiChiera, Director of Advocacy Landmarks Illinois, Colleen Humer, IIT College of Architecture, Kathy Nagle, IIT College of Architecture, Kevin and Elaine Harrington, IIT College of Architecture, Keith Olsen, Architect.