Puerto Rico as a New Architecture Lab

It’s been a month since hurricane Maria made landfall in my island of Puerto Rico. Complete neighborhoods, buildings, and roads were destroyed by the immense force of the cyclone. Highways got blocked, bridges collapsed, and utilities such as power, telecommunications, and water went down. Most wood construction houses suffered major damages, especially those that were constructed informally. The impact of this hurricane has been nominated as one of the most destruction an American community has ever experience.

Some may call it inefficiencies whether, now, it should be call Post-Maria opportunities.

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This kind of events exposes vulnerabilities of the past and current urban condition and design. For example, land use and zoning could be better publicly communicated in order to reduce sudden parcels and lot occupation with non-standard construction methods that may produce life-threatening situations and higher risks. Some may call it inefficiencies whether, now, it should be call Post-Maria opportunities.

Currently, Puerto Rico is on a state where it could become an ARCHITECTURE LABORATORY for urban planning and design research and innovation. Past urban decisions and development have brought part of the damage that we have cause to ourselves. Now, it is the time to reorganize and develop new residential zoning and building codes, protection of natural resources including river banks by prohibiting non-approved construction and rearrange and implementation of new infrastructure technologies for vehicular and pedestrian circulation and utilities such as power, water, and communications.

Personally, I am not living on the island, but the situation got to me first hand. Since communications were down after the cyclone went through, I was not capable to connect with my family after a week later. Finally, when I was able to talk to my parents, they described how Maria left our neighborhood and surroundings and how it even forced trees and concrete poles to the floor. Also, they explained how winds were at such speed that there was a roaring sound during the path of the hurricane. Given Puerto Rico’s location on the Caribbean, we have been at risk and through hurricanes before, but this one was a first of its kind during our times.

NOW, it is the moment to rethink our society. The idea is not to rebuild. We don’t want to be as we were before. The new goal should be to embrace this Post-Maria Opportunity with architecture resilience and EXECUTE for a better FUTURE.

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Thank you,

J.Fraticelli, Assoc. AIA

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