Date of Award
Master of Architecture (MArch)
Being hit by both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Puerto Rico was left devastated economically, psychologically, and infrastructurally. After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico entered into what would become the longest blackout in US history, and the second longest blackout in global history. Forty-eight per cent of the island was left without access to clean water and the death toll has risen to over 1000 people. The lack of federal support and Puerto Rico’s depleted economy has become a dire human rights issue. Federal relief efforts were delayed, disorganized and underfunded. Many people did not know where or how to access support even when it was available. It is clear that there is an urgent need for Puerto Ricans to have the resources to be able to help themselves at the community level. This design problem has been the guiding force behind this thesis project.
This proposal is a redesign of Escuela Dr. Pedro Goyco, a vacant elementary school located in the Santurce district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, that is centered around disaster resilience and renewable energy. The project has a dual program of being both a center for hurricane relief and a community space. After a natural disaster, people often gather in public spaces such as community centers, schools, and sports stadiums for their basics needs, although these places aren’t normally designed for these dire situations. The rate of natural disasters occurring is increasing every year and we need to accept this harsh reality and design solutions to address it.
Escuela Dr. Pedro Goyco is one of 300,000 vacant buildings on the island, and its central location provides the opportunity for it to become an area of refuge during a hurricane. The site is located in the Parque neighborhood and is part of the most densely populated area in San Juan. Being waterside and primarily low income, the area is highly vulnerable to hurricanes and its aftermath. After a hurricane, the site would be able to function as a shelter, provide clean water, electricity, cooking, and workspaces for those whose lives have been disrupted. With a landscape designed to resist flooding and a roof that gathers renewable energy, the project follows a cohesive vision of resilience and sustainability.
This architectural intervention will not only address issues of damage, but also fits into the broader issue of departing from colonial attitudes on the island. Although there is a sharp political divide between being pro-state and pro-independence, Puerto Ricans are unified by their incredible generosity and resourcefulness. This thesis aims to empower Puerto Ricans to be able to support themselves in the aftermath of a hurricane, and highlight their defining qualities and sustain independence.
Mac Donald, Aislin, "Designing for disaster resilience in Puerto Rico" (2018). Masters Theses. 308.
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