Cuba Culture

Architect of the Tropicana nightclub in Havana Cuba dies

Posted January 22, 2009 by publisher in Cuba Culture.


Max E. Borges, the creator and icon of Cuba’s most famous mid-20th century nightclub, the Tropicana, died Sunday at his home in Falls Church, Va. He was 90.

Borges was also known for having been a proponent of one of the island’s boldest urban architectural movements.

Born July 24, 1918, in Havana, Borges was brought up in a wealthy home and displayed from an early age a tireless curiosity of forms and the surrounding beauty, following the path of his father, architect Max Borges del Junco.

Borges studied architecture at Georgia Tech, graduating with honors, and went on to obtain a master’s degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Returning to Havana after completing his studies, Borges worked for his father on several urban projects and then went on to design the Tropicana nightclub and the Havana Medical Center, for which he was awarded the Cuban National Architectural Award.

Nicolas Quintana, a Florida International University architecture professor, recalled the creative force of Borges and noted that despite his innovations he was heavily influenced by Cuban traditions.

‘‘His works opened new horizons in Cuban architecture. His work is completely and absolutely modern, without losing its identity and the Cuban essence that is its most important part,’’ Quintana said. ``But I would definitely say that it was with the Tropicana that Borges became famous.’‘

Quintana said Borges was a charming, always friendly man. ‘‘When they gave him the Cintas Award for his professional achievements, he gave a beautiful speech,’’ Quintana said. ``He described what architecture felt like, not taking himself seriously despite his importance. Humble, yet with an astounding creative capacity. He is unquestionably one of Cuba’s great architects.’‘

Borges is preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Rosa. He is survived by two sons, Max M. Borges of Fairfax, Va., and Philip M. Borges of Falls Church; a brother, Henry F. Borges of Key Biscayne; two half-sisters, Josie Salazar and Anita Gross, both of Coral Gables; and five grandchildren.

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