The Borrás Hospital in its final hour

The ruins of the ancient Pedro Borras pediatric hospital, in Vedado neighborhood, have their hours counted. After years and years of decay, abandonment, illegal occupation and eviction, the former emblematic Havana Art Deco building is coming down to become parking -and park- of the health centers that surround it.

For several days the heavy machinery gradually demolishes the famous brick towers of this entity, the first children’s hospital of Havana, built in 1933 with capacity for 500 beds. Its architects were Felix Cabarrocas Ayala and Evelio Govantes Fuertes, who also bequeathed another jewels to Havana’s architecture, such as the Capitol, Palace of Fine Arts, the now House of Friendship, the Freyre Andrade hospital and the Civic Plaza, current Revolution Square.

That hospital was renamed Pedro Borrás Astorga in 1961 in honor of a medicine student who died at the Bay of Pigs. In the early 1980s, while continuing to provide service, the facility underwent preventive maintenance. In 1988, major repairs began that, if anything, worsened the constructive state of the work.

When I landed in Havana in 1998, the Borrás already seemed irretrievably doomed. It is said that at the beginning of this decade, the construction of popular tunnels and a large cistern undermined its foundations. As if the lack of maintenance was not enough, the hospital suffered the ravages of scrapping, i.e., people in charge of dismantling buildings brick by brick, stealing what it is worth. Not to mention the embezzlement of resources devoted to save it, when it was still thought possible, triggering a series of collapses, some in areas supposedly restored.

A couple of years ago, the Public Health Direction in Havana decided the demolition of the hospital, when seeing that the damage was already irreversible. Armando Garrido, then Vice-President of the Council of the Provincial Administration, then told the Cuban news agency that a multidisciplinary group of experts prepared a “safe demolition”…

Sources confirmed to OnCuba that experts, designers and builders conducted studies to choose a method that will prevent damage to surrounding properties and the environment. Even the use of dynamite was thought but it was discarded according to neighbors consulted due to the possible impact of the vibrations. And although several months ago its impending demolition was announced, its demise begins to be noticed only now…

As it turned out, the giant cistern is in good condition and will be exploited for emergency situations, while once cleaned of debris; the ravaged block will become a parking lot for hospitals without parking, as the Oncological, Orthopedic, the N eurological and the Borrás Polyclinic.

Thus the Vedado neighborhood says goodbye to an illustrious construction, as the Alaska Building was, and welcomes a new square. Watch out Holguin, at this rhythm Havana could become the new City of Parks…

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