Modest Modernism : elevating the urbanizaciones of Puerto Rico

Access full-text files




Barreto, Estefanía

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The 1950s and 1960s in Puerto Rico was a major crossroads for the island. The economy dramatically shifted from being dependent on cash-crops to being heavily dependent on industrial output. This change is due to the economic policies put forth by the Puerto Rican government that encouraged foreign investment in various industries. One of the people behind the growth of the Puerto Rico’s industrial economy, was the island’s first elected governor, Luis Munoz Marín; he had an optimistic vision for Puerto Rico to emerge as a new island that was looking toward the future. This optimism not only had an effect on the economic policies, but it also affected Puerto Rican architecture. To communicate to surrounding countries, especially the United States, that Puerto Rico had developed in the “right direction,” the government employed architects, such as Henry Klumb or Toro and Ferrer, that worked under the Modernist vocabulary. However, the Puerto Rican Modernist vocabulary was not only limited to large institutional projects, the movement also spread to the private sub-developments, or urbanizaciones. These neighborhoods sprouted up all over the San Juan Metropolitan Area, changing what the typical Puerto Rican house looked like. Houses with wooden walls and zinc rooves became old fashioned; the new house that everyone wanted had a flat roof and was made of reinforced concrete, with breezy spaces between each house, that took advantage of the tropical climate. These modest versions of tropical Modernist architecture shared similar characteristics to their larger counterparts, with the use of passive cooling, integration into the landscape, and of course the use of reinforced concrete. While the modernist movement in Puerto Rico is accepted as part of Puerto Rico’s cultural heritage, the houses of these urbanizaciones have yet to gain the same privilege. The majority of the neighborhoods from this crucial time in Puerto Rico are over fifty years old and it is time that they receive more respect as products of design from Modernist Movement of the 1950s and 1960s Puerto Rico.



LCSH Subject Headings