How does architecture make its appearance in civil society? Constitutional Modernism pursues this challenging question by exploring architecture, planning, and law as cultural forces. Analyzing the complex entanglements between these disciplines in the Cuban Republic, Timothy Hyde reveals how architects joined with other professionals and intellectuals in efforts to establish a stable civil society, from the promulgation of a new Cuban Constitution in 1940 up until the Cuban Revolution.
By arguing that constitutionalism was elaborated through architectural principles and practices as well as legal ones, Hyde offers a new view of architectural modernism as a political and social instrument. He contends that constitutionalism produced a decisive confluence of law and architecture, a means for planning the future of Cuba. The importance of architecture in this process is laid bare by Hyde’s thorough scrutiny of a variety of textual, graphical, and physical artifacts. He examines constitutional articles, exhibitions, interviews, master plans, monuments, and other primary materials as acts of design.
Read from the perspective of architectural history, Constitutional Modernism demonstrates how the modernist concepts that developed as an international discourse before the Second World War evolved through interactions with other disciplines into a civil urbanism in Cuba. And read from the perspective of Cuban history, the book explains how not only material products such as buildings and monuments but also the immaterial methods of architecture as a cultural practice produced ideas that had consequential effects on the political circumstances of the nation.
"This is a major book on Cuba. It is the best history of modern Havana ever written, unlikely to be surpassed. Timothy Hyde is a thorough, scrupulous historian with a sophisticated grasp of architectural history and theory, as well as of the political and artistic history of Cuba. He chronicles in dramatic detail the vigorous debates around the question of cubanidad that led to the proclamation of the 1940 constitution, and to the formulation and execution of plans for the development of Havana: its plazas, boulevards, public buildings, and monuments. These deliberations, which included prominent intellectuals such as Fernando Ortiz and Jorge Mañach, came to an end with the advent of Castro’s regime."
Roberto González Echevarría, Yale University