The restoration carried out in 1994 of the current Los Oficios Gallery – studio-gallery of renowned artist Nelson Domínguez – represents a tribute to Cuban colonial building traditions. Located in the vicinity of Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, this 18th-century building was part of the first growth of the city around its system of squares, true urban landmarks.
The well-chosen spot for the gallery on the ground floor, adjacent to the main entrance, makes it an attraction for passersby, while the studio on the second floor enjoys the privacy that any creative process requires. The spaciousness of the premises allows the artist to display the versatility of the different formats he uses, without limiting himself to two-dimensionality.
Building codes representative of traditional Havana architecture were maintained in the restoration of the building, which was undertaken by the Office of the City Historian. Such elements include the small tiled roof in the main facade and the arcades over openings and stained glass windows. Thanks to the bold, brilliant colors of the latter, the filtered light creates a rich, suggestive ambiance across the rooms.
The brick arches have been exposed intentionally, which, supported by the lighting design, are emphasized as aesthetic elements beyond their structural function.
One of the most attractive components is the common rafter frame roof, which gives the rooms a feeling of amplitude and is distinct from the ground floor, whose ceiling is a mezzanine made of beams and planks. Both are significantly well preserved. The color palette contributes to the coherence of the project and matches the color range of the colonial era, especially the so-called “Havana blue” of the woodwork, an allusion to historical referents.
The marble veneer flooring on the second level is also an interesting element. Although marble has been traditionally used for this purpose, here it has been reinterpreted and given a more contemporary approach, thanks to the shape and arrangement of the slabs.
This intervention is a positive example of the rescue of colonial architecture, by harmoniously combining traditional typologies with current treatments. The successful refunctionalization of a building that is representative of domestic architecture—it was the residence of Presbyter Pedro Benedicto Hourrutinier—into a studio-gallery is due, to a large extent, to the proper use of each space and a respectful attitude towards heritage values. This is why this space for creation and exhibition at Oficios Street No. 166, between Amargura and Teniente Rey streets, Old Havana, is as worthy to be admired as the art of Nelson Domínguez.