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

PRRA, St. Just Development, Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, c. 1939, RG 323, NARA-NY.

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 an independent architectural historian, educator, and writer based in Dublin, Ohio. She holds a PhD in theory and history of architecture from the Polytechnic University of Cataluña in Barcelona. Her research analyses architecture’s role within power negotiations. She is particularly interested in the way issues of race, ethnicity, culture, and gender filter through architecture. Currently, she is also working on decolonizing strategies for architectural education and practice based on Latin American and Caribbean ways-of-being. She publishes nationally and internationally in Spanish and in English. Rodríguez taught history of architecture and research-driven-human-centered studios in several architectural programs in Puerto Rico. At the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico she served as interim dean and associate dean. In 2019, along with Yara M. Colón, she started CIHTAD-PR: a research collective which focuses on the history and theory of architecture and design in Puerto Rico.