This is undoubtedly one of Cuba’s most notable buildings. Lavishly decorated, with pure lines and amazing proportions, it exudes magnificence. Construction works of the Capitolio as a Presidential Palace began in 1910, but were stopped to make changes in the original design to also house the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives. Works were later resumed in 1926 as part of General Machado’s City Embellishment Plan. Only world-class materials were used in this construction and most of the detail on the walls, ceiling, doors and lamps were cast in France. The superb main doors of ornamented bronze, designed by Enrique García Cabrera, depict the history of Cuba. The classic gardens were designed by French landscape artist Jean Claude Nicolas Forrestier. The 62-meter (207-feet) dome was the highest point in the city, “one meter taller than the one in Washington,” Cubans used to brag.
The construction is monumental in itself, but its impact on the urban surroundings is minimized by its right proportion and well-designed façades. The 55-step staircase up from El Prado is flanked by two large bronze statues (Work and The Tutelary Virtue) by Italian sculptor Angelo Zanelli, who also made the statute of The Republic (displayed in the foyer), which at 17.7 meters tall is the third largest indoor statue, smaller than only the gold Buddha
in Nara, Japan, and the Lincoln Monument in Washington, DC.
Its opulent interiors feature a lavish display of bronzes, Carrara marble and hardwoods. The vast 300,000 tome library features mahogany floor-to-ceiling shelves, and the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos (Hall of the Lost Steps), with unusual acoustics, reverses the sound of footsteps. Another highlight is the 91.73-meter tall cupola, which features the coats of arms of all six Cuban provinces existing at the time the building was made. And embedded on the floor, right under the needle, is a replica of the 25-carat diamond that marks point zero of Cuba’s central highway. There is also a stone plaque in honor of the five workers who lost their lives during the construction of this building.
The wings on either side of the entrance hall once housed the ornate Senate and Chamber of the House of Representatives, but now governmental offices are at the Plaza de la Revolución. In 1962, it became home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. After its present restoration, it will house the National Assembly of People’s Power, the legislative parliament of the Republci of Cuba.
Closed for renovation