• A New Deal for an Other: Colonial Discourse and Architecture in the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
    Luz Marie Rodríguez

J. Ramírez de Arellano, Tenement Group Project A, 1936, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Courtesy of PRRA Collection, Archivo de Arquitectura y Construcción de la Universidad de Puerto Rico.

The Great Depression faced by the United States during the 1930s worsened the already bleak Puerto Rican socio-economic landscape. In 1935, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA) as an umbrella New Deal agency to help build the economy of the tropical colony. Construction became a key factor in such and endeavor. Public works designed, built, and/or funded by PRRA reveal an experimental and scientific approach to architectural problem solving that place PRRA building programs as the first rationally scaled strategy in the Island aligned to some of the ideas of the Modern Movement. However, as colonial negotiations, cultural idiosyncrasy, and stereotyping practices, were filtered through design, the architecture associated to PRRA stand as mechanisms of power at the service of colonial discourse.

Luz Marie Rodríguez is a design research consultant, architectural historian, educator, and writer based in Dublin, Ohio, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. She received her PhD in theory and history of architecture from the Polytechnic University of Cataluña in Barcelona, Spain. Her research analyses architecture's role within power negotiations. Particularly, the multiple ways buildings cater to colonial/imperial systems. She is the author of several published essays and of three nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Rodríguez taught history of architecture and research studios for architecture and interior design in Puerto Rico. At the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico she served as interim dean, associate dean, and research coordinator for the School of Architecture.