Tropical Modernism: Puerto Rico’s New Homes, Hotels and Inns
Puerto Rico’s history is reflected in its cities. The architecture of the territory has evolved from simple structures of wood and thatch to monumental modern works. Shaped by internal and external forces across its varied landscapes, Puerto Rico’s diverse styles represent over 400 years of Spanish rule and over 100 years as an unincorporated territory of the United States. Today, the island’s modern architecture reflects its multicultural past.
The indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico inhabited the island long before the Spanish settlers. The Tainos used mahogany and dried palm leaves to build, living in the yucayeques. In 1493, many new settlers from Spain began to create architecture inspired by their home in Andalusia. Island life changed the way settlers built and, in turn, these structures were shaped by time and the need for a more secure military presence. The settlements were arranged along traditional railings, with public spaces, government buildings, religious, commercial and residential structures.
Puerto Rican architecture emerged as a blend of traditional Taino techniques and European and American influences. From colonial to Gothic, including baroque and modern, these buildings bear witness to the history of the territory. The following projects focusing on living spaces and contemporary homes that have been built over the past ten years. They provide a glimpse into Puerto Rico’s past and a generation of designers who are shaping the island’s future.
El Blok is a boutique hotel located in Esperanza, a quiet town on the south side of the island of Vieques, located 8 miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico. The hotel is located on a small commercial plot along the Esperanza seafront. The compact form of the hotel houses a program of 23 rooms, a restaurant, a rooftop terrace with Jacuzzi, parking and service areas. Conceptually, the hotel is designed as a block of coral pulled out of the sea; inspired by the shape, density and porosity of the coral reefs located just offshore.
The remodeling and expansion of this existing residence was developed for a family of four. The approximately 1,270 m2 site is located on the highest point of the street in a well-known suburban development in San Juan. On a clear day, part of the city is visible from the second floor on the east side of the house. Our arrival at the project took place in atypical circumstances. The previous architect who was working on the design of the house had passed away and the contractor was fired from the project after the swimming pool and pool house were completed.
The project is located in a mid-century development of RÃo Piedras. The district, typical of bourgeois housing estates of the time, is made up of lots of 1,500 m2 on average, with personalized houses individually designed. The house sits on a corner plot, defined by a local main street to the south-east and a cul-de-sac to the north. The residence, commissioned by a young family with two children, began as a substantial remodeling addition to a 1950s home. But after the initial rehabilitation concepts proved economically unfeasible, it turned into a ‘new home’ project. “.
A family of longtime Ocean Park residents set out to build a thirteen (13) bedroom guesthouse geared towards the family and group travel market. Located on McLeary Street, the main thoroughfare bordering this coastal / capital area, the hostel is ideally located between the tourist areas of El Condado and Isla Verde (with its international airport) – where restaurants abound and transport links within common are nearby. It is also privileged with the proximity of a superb beach, just a three (3) minute walk from the first residential community of San Juan.
The project involves a second order from GuarderÃa EcolÃ³gica La Mina. Like the first commission, the structure was abandoned for 20 years, where it was once part of a set of structures devoted to professional training equipment and then to volunteer corps. The building served as a sports and recreation hall on the first floor and a cosmetology salon on the second. The structure is a typical preconceived concrete module used by the Department of Education for school expansions since the 1960s, with a second story of block walls and a wooden roof that completely collapsed when we were in. arrived at the project.
The Alhambra house is located in a bourgeois district made up of single-family residences arranged on an urban layout of the garden city type. The residence sits on a plot of 950 square meters and is flanked by plots of similar size on its two sides (east and west); the south side of the property is defined by the street, while the north side abuts the metro rail network. The clients / residents were a young professional couple with two young children. They had both traveled extensively and shared a common interest in modern design and architecture. The proposed program simply provided for a house with âan open central kitchen, a loft studio-office, open living spaces, and a general reorientation towards the patioâ.
The project is a speculative development and the client is a for-profit company. The program was dictated by the needs of the market: four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms with all the other spaces typical of suburban life. The houses exist between a ârural feelâ driveway on the outskirts of the suburbs and a high-speed highway. The site straddles a ridge between two coves, one of which separates San Juan (the capital of Puerto Rico) from Guaynabo (a main suburb of the capital). The contextual duality of the rural-type suburb versus the high-speed highway and the city frames the project.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on December 1, 2019 and updated on June 15, 2021.