Endangered Art Deco in Curacao

Wall cancer.

Wall Cancer in Curacao

That was the evocative phrase that was used to describe a problem facing Curacao’s oldest buildings, which were made with coral covered by concrete and paint. As it was described to me, the coral leaches salt (and likely other minerals) which corrodes the paint from within, leading to splotches of corrosion, black lace woven by some sort of malign spirit.

Willemstad Curacao

It’s a problem here that’s taken seriously — at least in part because the old city of Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage site —  and it was this thought that occupied my mind as I toured the hot city, with its gabled Dutch roof lines, painted in bright Caribbean colors.

But what, then, was this?

Cinelandia Art Deco Theater Curacao

This is Cinelandia, an abandoned movie theater, and the only Art Deco structure still standing on the island. (Another Art Deco movie theater has already been demolished.) There’s a court struggle now to prevent this theater’s destruction, which looks like it’s going well and I hope succeeds. Although Curacao is not the Caribbean island known for its Art Deco — that’d be Cuba — I can imagine that once restored, the building’s streamlined shape would make a marvelous contrast to it 17th and 18th century Dutch colonial neighbors.


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