The Sala de las Arcos de Cristal, or Hall of Crystal Arches, is the interior performance hall of the Tropicana Cabaret. The hall is composed of five slender reinforced concrete cylindrical arches placed off-center and in decreasing height. Measuring only 3-inches thick, the shell vaults provide only a thin separation between the garden-like exterior and the soaring interior.

  • Location: 72A, La Habana, Cuba
  • Architect: Max Borges, Jr.
  • Owner: The Republic of Cuba
  • Built: 1951
  • Largest arch span: 90 ft (27.4 m)
  • Shell thickness: 3 in (7.6 cm)
  • Structural system: Thin cylindrical shells
  • Construction material: Reinforced concrete

The Tropicana Night Club is a culturally and historically significant piece of Cuban architecture designed by Max Borges in the 1950s. The shells act like barrel vaults. The proportion of each vault makes them act as a series of arches carrying the load to the foundation in compression. A structural analysis indicates that the stresses in the shells are well below the concrete material capacity.

The arches are widest at the entrance, and narrow in telescopic form towards the stage. Between each arch are panes of glass to introduce light and to directly relate the interior with the surrounding environment without interruption. The interior is painted black, which accentuates the perception of dissolution between the interior and exterior.

The above force diagram displays the internal membrane forces (lb/ ft) in the direction of the arrows. The majority of the shell is in compression, which is expected given the geometry and the loading conditions. Material properties cause thin areas of tension along the outer edges of the shell. The maximum compressive and tensile stresses in the shell are calculated by dividing the maximum compressive and tensile forces by the thickness of the shell (3 in). Resulting stresses are lower than the values of typical compressive and tensile capacity of the concrete, which indicates good structural performance.

Student authors of project:
Veronica Boyce
Annie Levine