In town for the Havana Ballet Festival, Acosta tried to drum up interest in his campaign during meetings with officials as well as with local and international media.
He emphasized that he and Foster are committed to remaining faithful to Garatti’s design, and said the center will support an estimated 80 to 100 jobs even after construction finishes. The master plan has not been finalized, but Acosta said the modifications it envisions are minor, like repurposing classrooms as student dorms and expanding the main theater’s capacity from 200 to 540.
Such changes are necessary for the center to take in money and be self-sufficient, according to Acosta and his partner on the project, Rupert Rohan. It would be a British-registered nonprofit with an independent board to administer the center in partnership with Cuba, which would retain ownership of the landmark building.
If that differs from the Communist government’s traditional role as the principal supporter of the arts, Acosta noted that the Culture Ministry is on board and has signed a preliminary agreement.
‘‘Someone has to pay for everything. And (the government) can't,’’ Acosta said.
Tensions remain. While giving an interview to a reporter Friday, Acosta was interrupted by an indignant man who engaged him in a heated exchange about respecting Garatti’s creation. Acosta has apparently been unable to soothe Garatti’s objections, though he insists the Italian will still be involved.
Timothy Hyde, an architectural historian at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, said the ballet school and the other four arts campuses posed fundamental questions about Cuban identity and citizenship after the Cuban Revolution, including what should a new Cuban architecture look like.
Hyde said the debate over one of the island’s top 10 landmarks of the 20th century therefore has unfortunately been framed as a stark choice — leave the school as is, or bring in Foster to create something entirely new.
‘‘Both seem to kind of fix the building in amber,’’ he said.
Ultimately island authorities will have the final say on the dance center’s fate. But Acosta, who lives in London, has made it clear that while Cuba is his first choice, he’s prepared to shop his performance center project around.
‘‘My greatest desires are to achieve this project in Cuba,’’ Acosta said in an open letter responding to Garatti’s objections, ‘‘but I could just as easily do it in another country, for example: England.’’
Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi