Elements to bear in mind on Ponce architecture
Jorge Ortiz Colom, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Ponce office / November 2007
S BUILT FORM
– city and buildings - reflect multiculturalism and an open, progressive view of the world. This is particularly important in the mixture of vernacular and cultivated forms and details andthe blending of local and imported materials. Ponce was Puerto Rico’s commercial center for theimportant export industry of semi-processed agricultural products: dry coffee beans (shipped raw orroasted) and brown or muscovado sugar.It is climatically appropriate, with a use of low-temperature-burned brick masonry and wood, bothnative mostly in structure and imported in sheathing.The use of balconies and enclosed galleries, highceilings with an airspace between it and the (generallytin) roofs and the design of doors and windows are allspecific responses to a hot, semidry climate at a time of lack of easily tappable energy sources.
Representative buildings and types
Ponce architecture is characterized by elements like:
Vernacular predominance between 1825approx. to 1900, using mostly local wood, mampostería or brick, generally rectangular or L-shapes, high hip or side gable roofs (the latter with distinct ventilating grilles in wood slats). Thisstyle continued as a subordinate tendency up to ca. 1920. Usually the interior is 3 rooms widewith a central living space flanked by bedrooms, or 2 wide with one side for public space and theother one for bedrooms. Some of these are “absorbed” great houses of estates that were cultivatedhard up against the town.
Cultured tradition by several known architects and engineers, in many cases designing upon the vernacular interior schemes. Neoclassical was the prevalent language and its exuberance isevident for example in Manuel Doménech’s Carlos Armstrong House (1899). Some designers likeengineer Blas Silva and architect Alfredo Wiechers however develop alternate plan distributions.Wiechers was greatly influenced by Catalan
(many wealthy residents of the city were infact of Catalan origin), and other architects also used
-inspired detailing specially infaçades, balconies and
(ornamental interior screens subdividing the main living space).This type of building prevailed between 1880 and 1920 in the more central locations.
Pattern-book plans using American models and inspiration in bungalows and Anglo-Americanarts and crafts details. Usually built in imported wood and concrete. Some are visible inresidential sectors of downtown and others in sections like the Mariani residential subdivision(inner suburb) southwest of downtown. This was prevalent between 1920-1950.
Art Deco and Art Moderne in many areas used in all genera of building. Simultaneous use of Spanish Revival mostly for residential. (1930-1960)
Monumental traditions, mostly neoclassical, for the significant buildings in town. As Ponce grew,many stylistic traditions were tried. There is no stylistic uniformity in Ponce comparable with thatof San Juan and its overriding colonial-neoclassical theme.
Vernacular gingerbread house in thenorthern part of the city center