López Serrano Building

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López Serrano Building
López Serrano Building, El Vedado, Havana.jpg
As seen from the FOCSA Building corridor.
General information
Type Residential
Architectural style Art Deco
Location Vedado
Address 108 Calle 13 & L
Town or city Coat of arms of La Habana.svg Ciudad de La Habana
Country Cuba Cuba
Coordinates 23°08′39.2″N 82°23′13.94″W / 23.144222°N 82.3872056°W / 23.144222; -82.3872056Coordinates: 23°08′39.2″N 82°23′13.94″W / 23.144222°N 82.3872056°W / 23.144222; -82.3872056
Construction started 1929
Completed 1932
Owner Jose Antonio Lopez Serrano
Architectural to roof without tower 188.32 feet or 57.4 meters
Tip 215.26 feet or 65.61 meters
Roof Art Deco concrete forms
Technical details
Structural system Steel frame
Material Brick, terracotta tile walls
Floor count 10 + 4 tower
Floor area 92,000 square feet (8,500 m2)
Lifts/elevators 3
Design and construction
Architect Ricardo Mira
Structural engineer Miguel Rosich
Other designers Enrique García Cabrera
Main contractor Watch and Rosich
Known for 1st Cuba skyscraper[1]
Other information
Number of rooms 78 apts[2]

The López Serrano Building was the tallest building in Cuba until the construction of the FOCSA in 1956.[2] It was designed by the architect Ricardo Mira in 1929 who also designed La Moderna Poesia bookstore in 1941 on Obispo Street for the same owner. It is often compared to the Bacardi Building in Old Havana, built two years after the López Serrano Building, because of their similarity in massing and towers. The congressman, senator and presidential candidate Eduardo Chibás was living on the fourteenth floor of the López Serrano Building when he committed suicide in August 1951 while on the air at CMQ Radio Station.[2]


The construction of the building was promoted by José Antonio López Serrano. Serrano was a publisher who ran the book store La Moderna Poesía. He was the son of Ana Luísa Serrano and José López Rodríguez, Pote, a banker with ties to publishing.[3]

His father had arrived in Cuba as a poor and illiterate teenager who became an important and influential banker with ties to the government. In 1890 Pote married Ana Luísa Serrano, a wealthy widow who owned one of the best bookstores in Havana, La Moderna Poesía. After the marriage, Pote took charge of the business opening several branches in other locations in Cuba. José López's fortune was due not only to his advantageous marriage to Ana Luísa but also from supporting the Cuban independence cause. Relations with the main Cuban leaders would bring important economic benefits. Among these political alliances was the figure of General José Miguel Gómez, whom Pote financed the 1907 electoral campaign that would propel Gómez to the Presidency of the Republic. In 1908 Pote got an exclusive contract to print the tickets of the National Lottery, which translated into extensive financial benefits. He monopolized the printing of official documents such as bonds, stocks, stamps and bank notes, printed in La Casa del Timbre.[1] Later, he would obtain from the Government of Gómez the concession for the construction of an iron bridge over the Almendares River connecting Calle Calzada with Miramar.[4] José López Rodríguez committed suicide on March 28, 1921, he had accumulated 93 million dollars.[5]


Typical floor plan of the Lopez Serrano Building
Steel frame and location of brick walls. Tower above showing ten support columns.
Lobby Terrazzo

The building has a structural steel frame system which is standard in the United States and with the U.S. company that built it. A36 steel, is a system that is commonly bolted or riveted. As the technology for riveting steel was absent in Cuba, the frame of the Serrano was welded in place and responsible for the stiffness of the structure.[6]

The plan of the building is a combination of 'H' and 'I' types, combined to form three ten story apartment blocks. The massing of the López Serrano Building is similar to many Manhattan residential buildings of the previous twenty years that had been developed in the Upper East and West Sides of the island in that they had double loaded corridor blocks separated by a twenty or thirty foot space which allowed for light and ventilation of the apartments.[7] Above the ten stories in the center of the building is a tower of four apartments supported by ten columns. The central ten story block is subdivided into four aisles to allow for stair, three elevators and a brick wall down the middle which divides the block into two apartments. The two blocks to the east and west, have a line of structural columns running down the middle which in turn subdivide the apartment. An interior public corridor runs perpendicular to the three blocks, parallel to Calle 13, and links to a stair and three elevators. There is another stair at the east entrance with windows at every landing. There were no fire stairs required by the Havana building code.

The exterior walls are brick with a one inch, integral color cement plaster finish. There are raised plaster ornaments on the exterior walls and inscribed lines in the plaster suggesting a masonry bond in the lower part of the wall. There are also terracotta design panels inserted over some of the openings. All the windows and doors of the building are wood and glass in a wood frame. The floor of the apartments are covered with tiles with red and green geometric designs, there are tile baseboards. The interior walls are terracotta tile and covered in cement plaster. The floor of the lobby, the porch and entrances to the building have ornate designs in red and black or red and green terrazzo. The walls of the lobby are Moroccan, book matched, red marble panels.[8]. There is a nickel-silver relief El Tiempo (‘Time’) by graphic designer Enrique García Cabrera on the elevator wall of the lobby.[1] The elevator doors are pivot hinged and originally were nickel silver with various Art Deco designs.


Apartment distribution per floor
Room distribution within apartments. Typical floor plan

As per Havana zoning laws, the ground floor was required to have a porch facing 13th Street. It also had to provide public, commercial establishments. To this end, the building had various stores, a barber shop, restaurants and coffee shops. The distribution of the upper floors is as follows: from the second to the tenth floor, the building has eight apartments per floor, six with a separate service entrance opening directly into the kitchen and service area. Each apartment has access from the kitchen to what is called in Havana a "patio" (dark blue), this is an area equipped with a sink for doing laundry.[9] The four apartments in the center have two bedrooms each. The east and west apartments have three bedrooms each and an extra small maid's bedroom located next to the kitchen with a toilet and a shower. Each apartment has a small bathroom with a window close to the bedrooms. The main entrance door to the apartment opens directly into the living room. Only the apartments in the center block have a short corridor connecting the bedrooms. This shortage of corridors in the design mandates that the circulation occur mostly through the rooms thus decreasing their effective square footage. The dining room is connected to the kitchen and the patio. The center apartments on the south have a small entry vestibule. Every apartment was provided with all the modern amenities: hot and cold water, gas, radio and telephone service.[2] The López Serrano Building was the country's first co-operative apartment corporation.[10] Above the tenth floor were four luxury apartments. José Antonio López Serrano lived on the top floor and was later occupied by Eduardo Chibás.


  1. ^ a b c "López Serrano, el edificio que recuerda a un gran empresario". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  2. ^ a b c d "Edificio López Serrano (Spanish)". Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  3. ^ "Paseos por La Habana (Spanis}". Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  4. ^ "JOSÉ LÓPEZ RODRÍGUEZ 'POTE'". Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  5. ^ "José López Rodríguez (Pote)". Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  6. ^ "Grade Guide: A36 Steel". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  7. ^ "The 1899 Alimar Apts -- No. 925 West End Avenue". Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  8. ^ "EL PRIMER RASCACIELOS DE CUBA". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  9. ^ Fernandez, Eduardo. "Guía de arquitectura de La Habana". juntadeandalucia.es. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Preservation of Community Assets". Retrieved 2018-09-23.

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