Letter: Buildings that fall in Havana

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The Independent Online
Sir: The building that almost flattened Jonathan Glancey in Havana ('Walls came tumbling down', 20 October) collapsed because people had been removing its wooden scaffolding piece by piece to fuel their cooking fires. There is very little electricity in Cuba now and thus little refrigeration, so it is vital to boil water and cook food thoroughly. But there is very little gas, either, so the Habaneros have been reduced to building fires in their courtyards.

Dominic Gold (letter, 28 October) made sensible suggestions for the involvement of the British architectural community in Havana's restoration. Might not Great Britain follow the lead of other foreign governments and organisations and select an 18th-century palace to sponsor? One possible use for it could be as a museum of the British occupation of Havana from 1762-63, a stirring story of brilliant British military and naval planning and Spanish and Cuban courage and tenacity. The hundreds of fascinating artefacts in existence, as well as a sizeable collection of paintings and prints relating to the event, could then be housed under one roof. As Dominic Gold suggests, British architects could become involved in the building's restoration.

The British departed from Havana in 1763, having broken the stranglehold of the Spanish trade monopoly. Might not the British in 1993, 230 years later, help the Cubans to avoid the dual stranglehold of American embargo and American culture?

Yours faithfully,

JULIET BARCLAY

London, W12

29 October

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