top of page


Educational Facilities at El Zarzal Correctional Center 
Rio Grande, Puerto Rico



This project recycles three abandoned structures originally designed as a minimum-security correctional facility, into an academic center providing a two-year technical and academic educational program for a selected group of inmates and correctional personnel.  Inmate’s housing and recreational facilities already existed in the area, so our project was to provide the dining, administrative, social services, and other support facilities.


The  main entrance to the complex is located to the southeast of the complex.  From the drop-off area, provided with benches, the access to the main entrance is by mean of a generous stair or through a curved ramp.  The control area, a cylindrical shape structure with a tall roof, marks the entrance and provides the facilities for storage and inspection of packages and people accessing the restricted areas.  After access is cleared, a large multipurpose room, with an exterior patio provides for family visiting, or programmed inmate’s group lectures or activities.  Administrative and security personnel facilities are also located in this new wing.


To the west of this structure, an existing building is remodeled on the first level, to provide the mess halls for the inmates and the personnel. The (pre-cooked) food service areas, with its loading dock and other supporting facilities, separate the two dining areas. The circulation gallery opens to the personnel or the inmates’ courtyards. The second level is used for the social services component of the program, and the Chapel.  This building is connected to the “civil” personnel circulation from the south end, and the inmates’ circulation on the north, keeping circulations segregated.


A new structure, perpendicular to the last, connects the four buildings in the composition.  It contains the general support facilities such as restrooms for inmates and faculty, infirmary, mailroom and the facilities for processing all the incoming inmates, with the control gates to the exterior.  This wing also provides the circulation and ramp that connects all buildings and all levels.


The building on the northwest is remodeled to accommodate the technical workshops on the first level and the academic program facilities such as administrative offices and faculty room, on the second level. 



The building to the northeast is also remodeled to accommodate the library and computer classroom on the first level, with the academic classrooms on the second level. 


All three remodeled buildings, had limited ceiling heights, and new electrical, security and fire protection systems had to be provided.  By dividing the spaces at midway between the column bays, and creating a half span wall or faux portico, all systems were provided in an organized, “clean” and vandal resistant manner.  The air conditioning pipe work, where required, also benefits from this strategy.


Along the north façade a grilled portal receives the inmates from the housing quarters to the academic center, through a generous plaza and exterior stairway. From the inmate’s entrance, the large courtyard dominates the scene, with the new exterior galleries, crowned with curved roofs.  These galleries, provided so that the existing pavilions are able to accommodate the programmed functions, create the new image of these buildings and frame the main courtyard with it palm tree garden and its sculptural ramp on the background. The building becomes an oasis,  the educational experience, a bridge to  the future and to a better life.

Site Title

UPR Regional College of Aguadilla (CORA) Library
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

The UPR Regional College of Aguadilla (CORA) is located at the former Ramey Air Force Base.  As such, all its facilities have been adapted from previously existing military structures.  This new Library and Resources Center is the first building designed for educational purposes at CORA.  This condition imposes an additional objective to the design program: to communicate an institutional image to visitors and institutional members alike.  


The site is a promontory, at the center of CORA’s parcel,  with potential commanding views from the second level of the building (to the north),  and a great axial exposure from the West Parade St. entrance to the campus.  Main campus activity nodes occur to the northeast of the site (Student Center) and the east (academic buildings, and parking).


The building is organized in two parallel bars that define the site boundaries to the north and south.  These are connected at their eastern most side creating an open-end courtyard between them. by third wing (angled) that defines the east boundary, and organizes the two main approaches (north & east) to the building entrance .  


The formal entrance is oriented to the east, responding to the academic buildings.  It is defined by two solid masses on the extremes (south wing and Conference Hall) and provides a raised loggia,  with grand steps and  double height massive columns and ceiling.  A second entrance,  through a plaza,  is provided to the northeast,  oriented to the commons.  Both entrances meet under an entrance canopy and into the lobby and exhibition area.  All other  activities are reached from the lobby: the main staircase and elevator,  the library catalog area,  the restrooms and the circulation galleries of the north and south wings and the courtyard.


The Conference Hall, articulates both entrances,  gaining a symbolic character for its prominent location,  its angular displacement and a symbolic tower.  It will provide a memorable image for the new building.


The library is arranged on the north wing,  with circulation to the south (for solar protection, and views and access (on the first level) to an open courtyard).  The Computer Training Station,  and the  group study rooms are located adjacent to the main circulation, to prevent conflicts with more private areas. 


Control stations and support areas are located at the entrance of each library hall.  Shelving is located as an additional filter before arriving to the individual study areas,  and secondary reading areas facing the views on the north.  The northwest corner of this wing is treated as a symbolic tower, located in axis with the main entrance to the campus.  The Aguadilla Hall is located on the first level of this tower,  while the main Reading Hall is located on the second level.  Each reading area is provided with particular spatial qualities,  creating memorable and inviting spaces.


The open courtyard is organized on an axis,  connecting the future parking areas to the west with the academic buildings on the east.  The space is dominated by the main staircase volume,  and the galleries of the north and south wings.  Shaded by the building,  secluded and landscaped it should become an area for informal or light  reading.  


The south wing is reached through an arcade, with views to and access (on the first level) to the courtyard.  Administrative facilities and audiovisual resources are located on the first level,  while the second level is dedicated to computer laboratories.


The formal vocabulary used for this building attempts to relate it to the American architecture of military installations in the 1940’s,  while providing an institutional character proper for this institution of knowledge.


RCM Auditorium  
San Juan, Puerto Rico 


The primary design objectives of the audi- torium for the School of Odontology at the Medical Science Campus of the U.P.R. rely upon the following design considerations:


• Create an auditorium for continuing education programs with capacity of 100 seats and “state of the art” audiovisual equipment.


• Need to adapt the new facility, to the existing infrastructure (to remain).


• Provide ADA accessibility.


After a thoughtful analysis, a central two hallway arrangement was defined in response to the existent infrastructure and the spatial context, as well as to the programmatic logistics of the space:


• The stage area location and orientation, in addition to the raised platform configuration respond to the small size of the room by providing with the best visuals and seating arrangement. Its geometry also responds to the existent air conditioning duct system above, which is to remain, and needs

to be concealed.


• The main access doors are located in the back of the room to minimize interruptions of the educational activities.

• By locating the stage at ground level, an ADA access door is able to function in order to lead the disable audience to their designated area on the front seat row.


The expressive nature of these folded continuous planes work in both directions, fulfilling a modern aesthetic and tectonic, in addition to the function al requirements of the program. The flows of these geometries evoke a dynamic marriage between form and function. 



bottom of page