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Decolonizing Architecture: Vieques as Symbol for a Post-Colonized Puerto Rico


In the 1940’s the United States Navy took Vieques, an island municipality of Puerto Rico, hostage. The Navy expropriated 2/3 of the land. This resulted in the destruction of the sugar cane industry, which was the economic source of the people, and forced them to move to the middle of the island. By 1948 almost 10,000 people where living in between an ammunition depot and a target range for amphibious practices. After more than six decades of bombing the island, protests and civil disobedience from Viequenses, main island Puerto Ricans and in the diaspora, the United States Navy withdrew from Vieques in 2003.

After the bombing ceased the community got together once again to focus their efforts into what they call the “Four D’s: Demilitarization, Decontamination, Devolution (return of lands), and (community-based, sustainable) Development.” Only half of the struggle was won; the hard part, which is to work for an economically, socially and ecologically healthy Vieques is the new challenge for the Puerto Rican people.

Understanding the historic context of the island and what the community wants and needs, I came up with the design proposal divided into three spaces: an Agro[eco]hostel, a Commemoration Space and a Wind Farm. These proposals will be the starting point for the sustainable development in three dimensions that they seek: the economical, the social and the ecological sustainability.

Using the existing infrastructure of the ammunition bunkers, the Agro[eco]hostel will activate the local economy through eco-tourism while supporting the preservation of the natural environment. The landscape scheme and agriculture aspect of the hostel is the rice plantation, as symbol of emancipation and as an opportunity to employ the people of Vieques. In a different type of bunker I propose a Commemoration Space, a memorial dedicated to all the people that one way or another have had their life changed by the presence of the Navy and its practices; with an open green space intended to not only to be the entrance site for the memorial, but it will also serve as a gathering space where people can go and march commemorating the withdrawal of the Navy in May 2003. And lastly, a Wind Farm situated in the eastern tip of the island where the bombing practices took place, would not only offer them a renewable source of energy, but it would symbolically blow clean air into town for the first time in decades.

All these proposals can contribute to realize the Viequenses wish of becoming the protagonists of their own sustainable development.


Puerto Rico

Competition Details

  • Name: Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]Restricted Access
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: May 01 2012
  • Submission Deadline: June 01 2012
  • Entry Fee: $50 USD Professionals , $25 USD Students , $0 USD Dues paying Architecture for Humanity Chapter members , $0 USD Developing Nations
  • Award: More than $5,000 in prizes
  • Status: Concluded

The competition entry ID for this project is 12874.

Project Details

NAME: Decolonizing Architecture: Vieques as Symbol for a Post-Colonized Puerto Rico
PROJECT LEAD: Tiara Aponte
LOCATION: Vieques, Puerto Rico
START DATE: April 26, 2012
CURRENT PHASE: Schematic Design
PROJECT TYPE: Restaurant/Café, Recreation Facility, Public Space/Gathering Space, Office Space, Museum/Gallery, Landscapes/Parks/Outdoor Spaces, Hotel, Cultural Display
STUDENT: Tiara Aponte
BENEFICIARIES: The people of Vieques and the rest of Puerto Ricans.

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