Editor's note: This film is no longer available to view online.

In 1961, three young, visionary architects were commissioned by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to create Cuba's National Art Schools on the grounds of a former golf course in Havana, Cuba.

Construction of their radical designs began immediately and the school's first classes soon followed.

Dancers, musicians and artists from all over the country reveled in the beauty of the schools, but as the dream of the revolution quickly became a reality, construction was abruptly halted and the architects and their designs were deemed irrelevant in the prevailing political climate.

Forty years later, the schools are in use but remain unfinished and decaying. Castro has invited the exiled architects back to finish their unrealised dream.

Cuba's Unfinished Spaces features intimate footage of Fidel Castro, showing his devotion to creating a worldwide showcase for art and documents the struggle and passion of three revolutionary artists.


By Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray

In the spring of 2001, in Havana, Cuba, we first had the opportunity to visit the National Art Schools. Organic, modern, brick buildings, the schools were in ruins, but were still home to Cuba's best and brightest art students.

After touring the campus, we met architect Roberto Gottardi. He brought with him an old file full of photographs and weathered documents that illustrated the story of his most monumental architectural project - the first and most impressive construction of the Cuban Revolution. Gottardi's story of the National Art Schools was also the story of his personal experience as an architect in Cuba. He believed in the possibility of utopia, began to construct it, but never completed it. Now, 45 years later, he has a chance to complete that work.  

We could not pass up the opportunity to follow him on the final leg of his long journey. Over the ten years we spent making Unfinished Spaces, we came to know Gottardi, and the other two architects Ricardo Porro and Vittorio Garatti, quite well. We were attracted to telling the story of the National Art Schools in Cuba because of their rich historical and emotional textures, but also because of the architects, who we deeply care about. This story has never been told on screen. 

In 1961, three young, visionary architects were commissioned by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to create Cuba's National Art Schools [Al Jazeera]

The National Art Schools and the recollections of the architects, their peers, and their rivals open up a compelling world rarely glimpsed outside of Cuba. The on-location photography reflects our unprecedented access to the National Arts Schools campus. It took years for us to cultivate a relationship with the Cuban authorities that would allow us to film on the heavily-guarded site of this national architectural treasure.

By design, Unfinished Spaces does not look or feel like a heavy political documentary; the film contributes to a balanced portrayal of the optimistic and tragic aspects of the Cuban Revolution. The story of the three architects and their unrealised vision provides a prism through which we can tell the complicated story of the Revolution.  

Beyond the stereotypical imagery of Old Havana with the classic cars and the often black-and-white commentary around Cuban politics, Unfinished Spaces promotes open-minded dialogue about Cuban culture and US-Cuba relations at a critical time when the policies of both nations are rapidly changing.

It is important to document the National Art Schools for the history of architecture, for the posterity of Cuba, and for the benefit of the world. The film's preservation of the history of these endangered buildings will hopefully prompt awareness of the need for their preservation and provide recognition for the architects.

Source: Al Jazeera