Wandering Eye: A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ears, Noses & Throats
Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).
I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but me, I am interested in SUN and HEAT right now. It might be bright outside, but it’s cold. Very “Cool White” florescent…when what we need is Warm Incandescence.
For me, Bright + Hot = Cuba, my current frame of reference after our multiple trips there to work on Hermes’s (damn) book. Right now, it is pleasantly warm and sunny—peak season!
My ramblings on Cuba tend to become too rambling…on and on, a subject I can/will wax eloquent about at length. I needed a short and sweet topic without all the socio-political baggage that comes with Cuban subjects.
I culled a bunch of nice bright ‘hot’ pictures of Havana’s pools from the thousands of pictures we have. Not all the pools are in the best working order, but each is pretty great in its own way.
Let the Games Begin!
“Our” pool is this huge kidney at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. It’s a scene in high season. Lots of old, very white men with caliente Cuban ‘dates.’ In summer, the looooow season, Havana is so hot you can’t even sit by a pool.
If this pool could tell tales, I shudder to think…
And why is it only now, via the InterWeb, I discover the Nacional has synchronized swimmers as part of the (lame) floorshow??!! Damn.
This 1950’s house in El Country Club (the best neighborhood in town) , is now a Casa Protocolo for diplomatic visitors. The sculpture spilling water into the pool is by Cuban artist Rita Longa. Note the great vine covered columns supporting the terrace. There are wonderful photos of this house in party mode – dinner for the King of Belgium, Christmas fiestas… The owner collected the palettes of great artists (!).
This pool is behind my favorite house, now a fabric warehouse. The loo for the ‘companeras’ was designed by Jansen. (It’s never Senor or Senora..Always companero and companera—Spanish for Comrade). The steps and the platforms make for my kind of pool – plenty of places to lie or stand and read - and still be submerged. Both sets of stairs are great…This pool and the previous one were designed by the same firm. Look at the edge details and paving.
The Best Pool in Havana, hands down, is this turn of the century Roman pavilion at the residence of the British ambassador. The addition to the main house was designed by the American architect John Duncan (he did Grant’s Tomb). It is elegant and so completely ‘classical’ it’s exotic.
I am no great fan of ‘endless pools’ – they only work when, like this one, they ‘magically’ shoot out into more blue water. The red slats/steps are very cool. The mid century modern house you aren’t seeing is now a paladar – a family run restaurant. I could move in…
The Swiss ambassador’s house was designed by Richard Neutra – and the pool(s) is huge and chic. As is the house…
This pool and pool house, with their simple neo-Colonial lines, won awards in the ‘50’s. Another Casa Protocolo in ‘El Country,’ hence the water…
The ‘cement pond’ at the United States Head of Special Interests’s (i.e. ambassador’s) residence. It’s what I imagine your better class of Officer’s Club looks like. Very “American,” isn’t it?
This is the entrance to a public salt water pool. We weren’t allowed in. Prior to Fidel, the Cuban’s excelled at resort/recreational architecture. The idea was for the designer to have fun so the place looked fun… Cubans, then and now, know how to have FUN.
In general, the ocean crashes onto rocky shore in Havana, not beach. You have to drive maybe 20 minutes outside the city to the closest nice beaches, and two hours to Varadero, their Hamptons. The only beach we saw in Havana proper is at the (former) Biltmore Yacht Club. I can’t find the (super) cute photo of Baby Hermes on the beach there (he will be relieved..)
This little number is another Casa Protocolo. The house is a Roman-style villa called La Mansion. And that name is not an exaggeration…a marble palace.
We did a house in Acapulco years ago. Quite a house. Two pools. One huge amorphic one with a 40’ waterfall and a grass ‘hut’ that seated 60 for dinner (right). And a smaller, more discrete, rectangular one (below), closer to the main house. The first night, the client turned to me, and over the roar of the waterfall, yelled, “Mira! This way is Beverly Hills and that way is Bel Air. Perfect!!” I had to agree…
One day the client said something about the pools, implying I must have tried one out. I replied, “Oh, I’ve never been in your pools!” He was stunned. It never occurred to me; I’m a Worker Bee. I silently wondered if he knew he was paying for our hotel ‘casita’ a few hundred yards away, with a private pool?
Me at my Acapulco desk…
If you want to go to Cuba, drop me a line. I’ll tell you what room to get at the Nacional and how to cadge a guest pass at the Biltmore YC.
Stay warm! —Carey Maloney
For the complete archive of past Wandering Eye blogs, click here.