Puerto Rico’s Art Deco Past: Preserving to Remember


“Preservar para no olvidar” (El Nuevo Día) focuses on the work of David Soto Padín, a civil engineering student at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, who has documented over 200 examples of Art Deco structures in Puerto Rico and founded the Puerto Rican Society of Historical Architecture in order to preserve memories. Soto Padín’s project is guided by his interest in showing that historical preservation and awareness of our architecture allows us to build “community.”

What started as a whim in the summer of 2008 when the young man began photographing nature, the city, and its hidden corners, became a vehicle to recognize the importance of recognizing the cultural and architectural heritage of the country. The photos led to research that has led him to create a database that exceeds 200 examples of Art Deco buildings in Puerto Rico. This is a list comprising residential, government and commercial buildings, theaters, schools, bridges, and other artistic expressions of this style. [. . .] Trips by carros públicos or by train, following a journey through architectural details, led him to reaffirm his passion for Art Deco. And the search was just beginning.

[. . .] “The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture has a list of buildings that are under the program ‘National Register of Historic Places’ that does not include all the buildings in Puerto Rico. We understand that these are federally protected and may receive certain assistance but there are other buildings that may not be protected but deserve to be documented and recognized,” he says. Although the group began looking at Art Deco examples, David accepted that this fascination with architecture follows the footsteps of other approaches and styles, some of which “have not been fully studied and documented.” He had to expand the field of exploration. [. . .] It was necessary from the beginning, to travel around the island and not focus merely on the metro area’s recognized Art Deco examples such as the Hotel Normandie or Miami Building in the Condado area. “These buildings are all over the island and you may not be aware that Art Deco had spread to so many corners. But that’s what makes Puerto Rico very important in the world of Art Deco: we have examples in all regions,” he says.


[. . .] You can see in David’s eyes his enthusiasm, not only for compiling the list of buildings, but also for the mission of the group to promotes the preservation, renovation, and restoration of historic buildings. With this same excitement, in March he participated in the twelfth edition of the World Art Deco Congress [Congreso Mundial de Art Déco] in Havana, Cuba, where he delivered a lecture on “Art Deco in Puerto Rico.”

The list, as the cornerstone of his project, is considered as a vehicle for communities to feel pride in certain structures in their neighborhood and, of course, a documentary resource that anyone can use. Some have already approached David to offer tours of these architectural sites.

Examples of Art Deco buildings in Puerto Rico: Escuela Jacinto López Martínez, Dorado; Cine Metro, Santurce; Instituto Oftálmico de Puerto Rico, Puerta de Tierra; Teatro Francisco Arriví, Santurce; Plaza del Mercado Isabel II, Ponce; Edificio ARCo, Santurce; Teatro Victoria, Ponce; Edificio de Banco Popular, Old San Juan; Teatro Guayama, Guayama; University High School, Río Piedras [Source: Compilation by David Soto Padín].

For the full list of Art Deco buildings and projects of the Puerto Rican Society of Historical Architecture, see http://artdecopr.org/PRADS/Inicio.html

For more details, write to artdecopr@gmail.com

For full article (in Spanish), see http://www.elnuevodia.com/preservarparanoolvidar-1507848.html#.UY-vqwuJzNM.facebook


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