In 2007, architects Abel Misla-Villalba and Javier De Jesus-Martinez, while pondering on the direction the practices of architecture, urbanism and related disciplines were taking due to current economic and political standings, developed two initiatives as venues for dialogue and discourse. The first, named IMDICE, stands for the Multisectoral Interface for the Development of Strategic Capital Investment, and aimed to provide a venue for collaborative academic research in an multisectorial environment. Parallel to this effort, and more in tune with the local intricacies of Puerto Rico’s southern region, the PORTECO initiative found its conception. Also as a multisectorial initiative, it integrated public, private and non-profit institutions to formulate a strategic plan for the economic, social and cultural development of Puerto Rico’s southern region.

In December 2008, two years after IMDICE and PORTECO initiatives were created, Misla-Villalba and De Jesus-Martinez, based on the positive feedback from the two ongoing initiatives, pondered on the possibility of a multisectorial and interdisciplinary model for the education of architecture. As architects themselves, the question became rhetorical, and soon in depth dialogues and discourses came about, providing a theoretical model and structure of an innovative academic paradigm. Misla Villalba stepped down from IMDICE to pursue the coordination of the work necessary to create the new school, while De Jesus Martinez remained in charge of IMDICE and lead PORTECO, which was now pursued by the Southern Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce and DISUR (Integral Development for the South).

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, as the single largest academic institution in southern Puerto Rico, and with a complete academic offering (ecology, biology, sociology, law, finances, economy, engineering, politics, communications, and humanities) and strategic local and regional alliances with both the public and private sectors, became that sought partner.

With the help of an interdisciplinary group of professionals represented by Pedro Rosario-Torres, Jose Pagan-Pares, Tamara Orozco, Luis Muñiz-Martinez, Jose and Alberto Dueño, Fernando Berio, Magda Bardina and Roberto Alsina, the framework for the development of the new School of Architecture was set in motion. Pedro Rosario-Torres took the lead in the coordination of all necessary documentation according to the Puerto Rico Council on Higher Education requirements.

A proposal for the new School of Architecture was drafted and presented to Rafael Hernandez Colon, former governor of Puerto Rico and member of the Board of Trustees of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.  Well known for his innovative political postures and proactive approach towards the urban realm, culture and the economic and political forces that drive them, 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.

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 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 Rafael Hernandez Colon, chairman of the School’s Implementation Committee, architect Abel Misla Villalba, the program’s founder, and a group of dedicated architects and planners, an exhaustive search for the program’s home ensued.  Following the programs philosophy of establishing its operations within Ponce’s urban fabric, the Historic Forteza building was finally selected and acquired by the University.  The 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.

Exhaustive marketing and recruiting for the Architecture 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 into the school.  Following University protocols and processes, candidates were carefully screened, interviewed, and scrutinized for admission.  The effort yielded 119 eligible candidates ranging from new admissions, to mid-career transfers, to post graduate level students pursuing new directions.  On September 4th, as a preamble to the School’s formal inauguration, and marking the birth of the new Program, the School organized its first architecture summit.  Titled The Currency of Ideas: Forecasting New Climates for the Exchange of Cultural Capital, the event included seven internationally renowned architects and educators like  Evan Douglis, Dean of the School of Architecture at Rensselear Polythecnic Institute; Karl Chu, faculty at Columbia University and Pratt Institute and director of the Genetic Architecture Institute; Jenny Sabin, faculty at the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia; Bill MacDonald, Undergraduate Architecture Program Director at Pratt Institute in New York; Carlos Arnaiz, partner at Stan Allen Architects in New York; Tom Wiscombe, former Project Designer at Coop Himmelblau and professor at Sci-Arc in Los Angeles; and Michael Szivos, principal at SoftLab in New York and faculty at Pratt Institute and Columbia University.

With a technological platform second to none, and a vision deeply rooted in innovation and the practical implementation of technology, the Pontifical Catholic University’s School of Architecture opened its doors on September 18th, 2009.  During its founding year, the Program promoted 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.

The transition from the first to the second year of operation was made with an innovative Digital Design Summer Workshop in which many of the School’s active and newly admitted students for the Fall 2010 semester integrated with high school students and undergraduates from other programs within the institution and other universities to explore the symbiotic parallels of industrial design and architecture.  Officially, the School’s second academic year began on August 16th, 2010, with a new class of 132 students.

In September 2010, the School of Architecture officially submitted its Architecture Program Report for Initial Candidacy (APR-IC), which led to the first NAAB Site Visit in March of 2011. The team was composed of Morris Brown (MFA, AIA) as the Team Chair, Loraine Fowlow (MRAIC,SAH) representing the Academy, and John Senhauser (FAIA) representing the National Architecture Accrediting Board. After an exhaustive and thorough presentation of all the required documentation and evidence of the Architecture Program, the Visiting Team and the National Architecture Accrediting Board officially granted the Program the status of Candidacy for Initial Accreditation.

The Visiting Team report noted that PCUPR Architecture Program “is an extremely invigorating and vibrant team of administrators, faculty and students. There is very strong support for this school from local and state government, the business community, the architectural community, and the larger creative community. The [Pontifical] Catholic University also exhibits unusually strong interest and support in the school, and is committed to the success of the program. The school’s intentions and ambitions are to become the preeminent architecture program in the Caribbean, and then internationally is a dream realized through hard work and ingenuity. “ Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Puerto Rico, Initial Candidacy Visiting Team Report (March 30, 2011)

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 preclude from full and undivided attention to the program. At this historic moment, the Associate Dean, Javier De Jesus Martinez, took the lead being named Dean in January 2012. The leadership and management of the De Jesus-Martinez has been characterized by advancing the research, multisectorial and entrepreneurial agenda. During his tenure, the implementation of the research agenda produced proposals the likes of the Route 123: Agrotouristic Corridor initiative, with a $2 million allocation from the Housing and Urbanism Department. The development of the research agenda has been achieved through multisectoral partnerships with companies like CEMEX, Carmel Group, and Nobel Akzon.

De Jesus Martinez is now slated for the design and implementation of the final two years of the Bachelor Program’s first curricular cycle. His focus lies on the design of the fifth year experience for the students. For this particular, the Dean De Jesus Martinez has formed the Committee for the Final Year Experience for a broad consultation process for feedback including all sectors of Puerto Rican society with an interest in architecture.

The entrepreneurial agenda has been designed and implemented through partnerships that add scope and value to our School. The School has successfully collaborated with the Ponce Museum of Art, the Municipality of Ponce, Municipality of Coamo, Plaza del Caribe, covering a wide spectrum of actors and political actors, social and economic aspects of Puerto Rico. Our school has entrepreneurial initiatives formed by teachers and students with tangible results.

Facing a third visit from NAAB in spring 2013, Dean Javier De Jesus-Martinez acknowledges the arduos and pinstaking labor of the design, editing and final assembly of this document by Juan Emmanuelli-Benvenutti and Pedro Rosario-Torres. The School of Architecture is eternally grateful for their unconditional commitment to this endeavor.


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 2010-2012 here.