Giant Sculpture of a Havana Balcony Forges an Artistic Link to Cuba

Last weekend, as local Cubans celebrated the death of Fidel Castro, construction workers at Museum Park built a symbolic link between Miami and Havana. Artist Juan Garaizabal's 69-foot stainless-steel sculpture, titled Havana’s Balcony, or Balcón de la Habana, had already been in the works for weeks. But when the piece lights up for the first time this evening, there'll be an added layer of resonance.

Garaizabal, originally trained as a draftsman, created Havana’s Balcony to resemble a giant line drawing with thin vertical and horizontal metal pieces floating in the air. Suspended in the center of the sculpture is a replica of a balcony in Havana. At night, the piece glows with purple LED lights.

The inspiration for the sculpture comes from a trip the artist took to Havana while he was doing a residency at Mana Wynwood. “I have a series of pictures of Havana’s balconies. Grandpas, grandmas, all people are speaking and talking from balcony to balcony. Balconies are places where people come together,” Garaizabal says. “I wanted to symbolize this Havana balcony by having the sculpture take the exact shape and volume of a balcony in Plaza de Armas in Havana. I took that drawing of this balcony and made a sculpture out of it to be placed here facing Havana.”
Garaizabal, who is based primarily in Madrid and Berlin, began work on the project in his Madrid studio this past August and created pieces of the sculpture for a month and a half. All the segments were then brought to Miami. Prior to last week, Garaizabal said he hadn't encountered any challenges: “We’ve had none, because with all the details, you need to solve everything beforehand. You can’t have any troubles.”

But during the last few days of construction, it was a different story. The sculpture was planned to be completed just in time for Thanksgiving. But last Wednesday, workers were still busy welding and lifting. They spoke in urgent tones about how to lift the heavier pieces, which required a larger crane than the one they had. The balcony lay on the grass. The team ended up working through Thanksgiving. On a site visit over the weekend, things were still in motion.
After Havana’s Balcony is complete, a sister sculpture will be created in Havana facing Miami, including a replica of a balcony at the Webster Hotel on Collins Avenue in South Beach. “I love this architecture here in Miami," Garaizabal says. "It’s one of my biggest joys in Miami. Architecture makes the character of a place.” The sister sculpture is scheduled for completion in time for Bienal de la Habana in 2017.

Havana’s Balcony is Garaizabal’s second-largest sculpture to date. He says he sees himself as an adventurer. “I like adventurers. They go to the limit. That’s inspiration to go my own way. The Spanish conquistadors were brave and fearless. In terms of art, there are people who are brave and fearless. It is one of the most complicated careers you can choose. You have to demonstrate courage.”
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth