ON SAN JUAN

[ FRAGMENT ]

/...seems to be regarded as a hostile animal in need of a cage: the Puerto Rican culture. The abandonded buildings covered in graffiti, next to the bars that were once shelters for revolutionaries, that filled the streets with music and art and unmeasured salsa dancing, sans cameras or live updates. This ecology of inspiration has been neatly tucked away, halfway through the commercial / residential zone, so that no one paying for a vista suite would have to acknowledge any truth besides an orange sunrise over an aquamarine infinity.

/A field of conveniently placed apartments and condos hide the view inland. But in order to design for Puerto Rico instead of merely on it, we should take the opportunity to see the Northern zone of Santurce, San Juan for what it is.

/The zones defining where the tourists go and where they stay from, is not a way to cage Puerto Rico away from La Concha and the Hilton and the Radisson; rather it can be seen in an empowering way, as a cage for (or of) the tourists.

/While the best thing to put on an overgrown patch of land south of Condado varies depending on the owner, the idea of profit still accurately apploes. For a capitalist enterprise looking to emphasize on gorgeous vistas and private-yet-connected retreats, a handful of combination hotel-casinos, and an entertainment center would do the trick. Though there are no high-rises within a fair distance, profitability often wins over personability.

/A tower clas in foreign intricacies or a modern-iconic symbol of "efficiency" would suffice for the profit-purists. Between the site and commercial civilization lies dreary industry, middle-class residence, and family business. Block it off, cut it out of view, and keep anyone who stays in hotel "La Profita" in a daze.

/For Puerto Rico, and the sake of Puerto Rico, re-using the industrial zone as a means to create an extension of cultural commerce, would be just as, if not more profitable. But it is here that we begin to re-evaluate the definition of "profitable". Uprooted asphalt of zoning to create a neighborhood by the people and for the people, not for the money. Like in Santurce, where art fills abandoned buildings, here the empty industrial buildings will hold artists and thinkers and performers and local entrepreneurs. Here the most "profitable" new constructions would be public business schools, a locally curated cultural center, galleries, day care centers, farmers markets and local debate halls.

/The gnawing though; like a sore blistering ebneath the iron clamp fastened to a prisoner's ankle, reminds us of the definition of "profit" that we as architects are anchored to: that of the client's best interes. And until we ourselves become the client of sorts, who we believe we should be working for is of no concern to Marriot or Indigo or "W".

/This emotional (albeit zealous) scenario sets us uncomfortably in the middle of these two systems competing for dominance (not necessarily intentionally). As designers, we have opportunities; to follow the profit that goes in our wallets, to design for someone that has nothing in theirs, or to move between the two; to take advantage of the stronger side, and use its wake across the waters surface to accumulate momentu, for those initiatives what would otherwise be lost in the tumultuous waters in which all ideas attempt to survive...

[ FRAGMENT ]

Written in response to Advanced Design Studio's guided approach to designing architecture for a city. A satirical quip against the imposition of convenience over culture, and a plea to shift the paradigms of designing for a location foreign to the designer. The first page was lost

 

This writing was made in conjunction with:

/RHIZO_PHORIA