A NEW ARCHITECTURE ECOLOGY
Early in 2007, Abel Misla-Villalba and a small group of local professionals found themselves pondering amidst uncertainties brought forth by the economic, social, and political structures in Puerto Rico. Involved within the realms of the public and private sectors, as well as academia, discourses gave way to very innovative perspectives on the issues and the need to have a well-established, coordinated venue to further examine and implement these perspectives in a cohesive, creative and functional manner. It is in this particular setting that academia, in conjunction with public and private sector, proved to be a viable, objective and comprehensive platform for the study and implementation of strategies aimed at validating or re-thinking prevalent models, and in seeking new approaches at dealing with not only with the issues, but also their effects, detrimental or otherwise, on communities, urban settings, design culture and overall character of the social realm.
The creation of a new academic platform became an imminent mandate, parting from an innovative approach, but within an already established structure that could provide support, resources and a solid platform. The Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico (PCUPR), as the single largest academic institution in southern Puerto Rico, and with a complete academic offering and strategic alliances with both the public and private sectors, became that sought partner.
A proposal for the new School of Architecture was drafted by Mr. Misla-Villalba, Javier De Jesús-Martínez, and Pedro A. Rosario-Torres (who in 2010 became the Program Director), and presented to Rafael Hernández-Colón, former Governor of Puerto Rico and member of the Board of Trustees of the PCUPR. Well known for his innovative political postures and proactive approach towards the urban realm, culture and the economical and political forces that drive them, through Mr. Hernández-Colón the proposal found its way to the Board of Trustees. Unanimously favored by all, an Implementation Committee was created to oversee and promote the proposed architecture program to fruition, chaired by the former Governor.
The Implementation Committee’s first task was to commission a Feasibility Study. The study concluded that the proposal was not only economically feasible, but also a necessity within Puerto Rico’s southern and western regions. Following the validation provided by the Feasibility Study, the proposal was then submitted and circulated among all institutional governances within the University, namely, Curriculum Committee, Academic Senate and Finances Committee, and was approved without major exceptions or amendments.
One of the most important and daunting tasks was finding a home for the architecture program. With the invaluable help of Mr. Hernández-Colón, Mr. Misla-Villalba, and a group of dedicated architects and planners, an exhaustive search for the program’s home ensued. Following the program’s philosophy of establishing its operations within Ponce’s urban fabric, the Historic Forteza building was finally selected and acquired by the University. The existing building proved ideal to accommodate the facilities, and its location proved even more dramatic and visionary than imagined. Nested along the perimeter of Ponce’s Main Plaza, and within the Historic District, the Forteza Building was rescued from abandonment and given its proper respect, filling its promise of fortitude and timelessness. It was about that same time that the required documentation was drafted, organized and submitted to the Puerto Rico Higher Education Council (CESPR, for its Spanish acronym) for approval. Without comment or exception, approval from the Council was granted.
Extensive marketing and recruiting for the Program became the next top priority, all while the Forteza building was redesigned and rehabilitated. The island wide recruitment campaign yielded great feedback as to the Program’s offering and, most importantly, provided the School with a myriad of candidates seeking admission. Following institutional protocols and processes, candidates were carefully screened, interviewed, and scrutinized for admission. The effort yielded 119 students ranging from new admissions and transfers, to post graduate level students pursuing new directions. On September 4th, 2009, as a preamble to the School of Architecture’s formal inauguration, and marking the birth of the new Program, an Architecture Summit was organized. Titled The Currency of Ideas: Forecasting New Climates for the Exchange of Cultural Capital, the event included seven internationally renowned architects and educators.
With a technological platform second to none, and a vision deeply rooted in innovation and the practical implementation of technology, the PCUPR School of Architecture was officially inaugurated on September 14th, 2009. During its foundational year, the Program has opened dialogues between widespread disciplines through a well established experimental ecology, providing the groundwork for graduates capable of developing free enterprise, with capacity for professional and intellectual growth, and a vision beyond the stereotypes of the profession.
Academically, the transition from the first year to the second was made with an innovative Digital Design Summer Program, in which many of the School’s active and accepted students integrated with high school students and undergraduates from other programs within the institution and other universities, to investigate the relations between industrial design and architecture. Officially, the second academic year of the School began on August 16th, 2010, with a new class of 131 students, an even bigger group than the previous, proving the pertinence of the Program within the Region.
In September 2011, Abel Misla-Villalba stepped down as Founding Dean of the School of Architecture in pursuit of personal and professional endeavors that would prevent him from devoting his undivided attention to the program. At this time, the Associate Dean, Mr. De Jesús-Martínez, assumed the position of Interim Dean in January 2012. His leadership was characterized by advancing the research, multisectorial and entrepreneurial agenda of the School. During his tenure, the implementation of the research initiatives produced proposals such as Route 123: Agro-touristic Corridor (an initiative for the US Housing and Urbanism Department). He also worked on the development of alliances between the Program and respected companies like CEMEX, Grupo Carmelo, and AkzoNobel. To reinforce the research culture in the School, Mr. De Jesús-Martínez invited senior researcher Luz M. Rodríguez-López, Ph.D, to join the faculty. She also served as Associate Dean. Under the Interim Deanship of De Jesús-Martínez, the School formally completed its first curricular cycle, and with it, the first four graduates from the Program.
Late in 2014, Javier De Jesús-Martínez stepped down as Interim Dean, and the PCUPR engaged in the formal search and designation of a new Dean. In March 2015, Architect Luis V. Badillo-Lozano was officially designated to the position of Dean for the PCUPR School of Architecture. The PCUPR School of Architecture enters a new era and academic cycle under the leadership of Architect Badillo-Lozano, who has an experience 15 years as Architecture Faculty, and 30 years as Partner of one of the most reputable architecture and engineering firms in Puerto Rico. From the School’s inception, Badillo-Lozano has been Experimental Unit Coordinator and Faculty of the Sustainability and Technologies Unit. The new Dean is presently concentrated on:
- Successfully complete the School’s Initial Accreditation Process.
- Evaluation of the present nine Experimental Units in search of more effective academic structure, avoiding redundancy, and pursuing a more streamlined administrative entity.
- Evaluation of the Program requirements to reduce the present amount of credits. At least two courses (7 credits) have been identified that can be eliminated. Also, on the next academic year the School will participate in a Curriculum Evaluation which should result in a leaner Program.
- Strengthen the Capstone Experience. Architect Badillo-Lozano has already created the position and designation of a Capstone Coordinator to refocus the last two Architectural Design Studios in the Program with the idea of promoting a more rational and comprehensive final curricular year experience.
- Continuum support and reinforcement of the School’s Research Culture. Architect Badillo-Lozano has already created the position and designation an experienced researcher as Research Coordinator and advisor of the younger researchers.
- Establish a fixed location for the School’s first Off-Campus Program, increase the international exchanges, and expose our students to a broader cultural diversity experience by adding academic alliances with both foreign and stateside Schools. Architect Badillo-Lozano not only reiterates the School’s support to the already existing alliances, but also is establishing an Memorandum of Understanding with the Catholic University Redemptories Mater in Managua, Nicaragua, which will become an abroad Historical Preservation Laboratory for our Program.
- Turn the School in the Puerto Rico’s South and West Regions Professional Continuum Education and Activities Centre. Architect Badillo-Lozano has alredy agreed with the State’s Architects Associations (Colegio de Arquitectos y Arquitectos Paisajistas de Puerto Rico) an alliance for the School to become their Regional Chapter Headquarter.
- Improve the presence and standing of the School within the community. Architect Badillo-Lozano has already agreed to regularly contribute with articles regarding architectural subjects in local and island wide general publications newspapers and to encourage the participation of the School components in professional and civic organizations and/or Initiatives.
ARCHITECTURE PROGRAM MISSION
Through an interdisciplinary curricular structure, a unique digital platform complimentary to that structure, and a compromise to impact society constructively through a multi-sectorial institutional interaction, the School of Architecture envisions a creative process that transcends the conventional, and is rooted in a non-conformist attitude where the establishment is constantly tested and scrutinized in benefit of innovation and creativity.
The mission of the School of Architecture at the Pontifical Catholic University is to educate and forge a new architect, planner, thinker and entrepreneur in an interdisciplinary environment; one within which the understanding of the territorial and urban complexity, as well as the regional and global economic dynamics, can operate with advanced technologies and knowledge to guide sustainable investments and interventions.
The School of Architecture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico aims to forge a new Strategic Architect through an innovative ecology of experimentation and expansive knowledge. With an international agenda, unprecedented access to technology, and a profound social compromise with Puerto Rico’s Southern Region, the Pontifical Catholic University opened its doors within Ponce’s historical urban center. The Strategic Architect is a professional shaped by the substantive crossing between disciplines, with a total dominion of technologies and an understanding of the complexity of the territories and the cities.
The Architecture Program reaffirms the importance of leadership, self-guided discipline, and transcendental quality for the young professionals that search for their space in a very competitive professional arena. Graduates from the Bachelor Program, in tune with the five perspectives, shall:
- Act in tune with the Christian values and principles that are proclaimed in the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.
- Possess a higher sense of commitment and responsibility towards the practice of the profession, innovative, able and with a vision of the future.
- Aqcuire a business sense, willing to position themselves in a hierarchical position and have their voices be heard, highly active in the decision making process that affects the way natural and build environment is plan, manage and developed, the quality of life as a society and the capacity of innovative developments.
- Be aware of the realities of the exercise of the discipline.
- Have a better understanding of the confines and limits of the profession that can diversify the profession through interdisciplinary interaction, trans-disciplinary knowledge and multi-sectorial approach to open new avenues for success.
- Have the capacity to establish effective and proactive relations with all governmental, cultural, social, political and economic structures inherent in today’s global society.
View or Download the PUCPR School of Architecture Catalog 2015 here.