Rowan Moore reports in today's Observer newspaper that the great ballet dancer Carlos Acosta wants to give something back both to his art form and to Cuba, and has offered his own money and the fundraising power of his energy and his name, to create a new centre for dance and culture on the edge of Havana. In the process, he hopes to give a new future to one of the most remarkable buildings of the 20th century, in Cuba or anywhere else. The eminent Lord Foster has helped him with a feasibility study, free of charge, yet the plan has provoked uproar, says Rowan.
The building in question is the School of Ballet, a work of the heady early years of the Cuban revolution, and Cuban architects are questioning whether a powerful international practice, Foster's, will best reflect its spirit. The school's original architect, Vittorio Garatti, has written to Fidel Castro in protest. The reason is that Foster is a modernist - a movement which the original architect rejected.
The current debate, says Rowan, is the latest episode in a story so dramatic and colourful it could inspire a book, a feature film or an opera. As, indeed, it has – all three. The ballet school is part of a complex called the National Schools of Art, about which architect and educator John Loomis has written a book, Revolution of Forms, which has been made into a movie (called Unfinished Spaces) now doing the rounds of film festivals, and is the basis of an opera directed by Robert Wilson. Watch the trailer above