Event: Puerto Rico Now: Practice, Government, and Media
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.27.11
Speakers: Laura Cordero de Agrait, AIA — Architect; Diana Luna — Architect
Moderator: Warren James — Principal, Warren A. James Architects + Planners
Introduction: Rick Bell, FAIA — AIANY Executive Director
Organizers: AIANY Women in Architecture Committee; AIANY Global Dialogues Committees, Puerto Rico Now Steering Team
Sponsors: AIANY Women in Architecture and Global Dialogues Committees; AIA Puerto Rico Chapter; DBC Technologies, Inc.; Shen Milsom & Wilke; SKYed Eco Education and Consulting
As part of the Puerto Rico Now presentation series, two architects from San Juan discussed their work and the future of design. Though Laura Cordero de Agrait, AIA, and Diana Luna work within the same profession, each has taken her own path through public and private sector work in Puerto Rico.
Cordero de Agrait was the sixth female architect to become licensed in Puerto Rico and has taken an active role in founding Puerto Rico’s Architect’s Association and organizing AIA Puerto Rico Chapter activities. Before establishing her own practice, she worked for firms in Washington, DC, and Austin, TX, where she developed an interest in healthcare design. She has since completed many healthcare projects, as well as resort communities, housing, educational, and institutional buildings in Puerto Rico. Though Cordero de Agrait admitted that “working with doctors is not very easy,” one of her most challenging projects was designing her own home. As an architect aware of her many options, she found it difficult to settle on material selections, but, ultimately, the view of the surrounding rainforest inspired her and became the focus of the design.
Luna’s first project was the restoration of her family home, but these days she designs at the scale of the city. Luna works with municipalities in Puerto Rico to execute historic district master plans. Most notably she has participated in the master plan for Aguirre, a neighborhood in Salinas that was founded as a sugar refinery and is designated as a Blueprint for America project, the flagship program of the AIA 150 initiative that identifies significant areas in need of improvement. Between 40% and 60% of buildings in Puerto Rico’s urban centers are lost due to neglect, according to Luna. She has created public awareness through educational programs and has worked to get local mayors involved in the building of 80 projects in 29 municipalities, including Morovis, Barranquitas, and Guayama. Of course, working with any government can prove challenging, and Luna believes that “a sense of humor is necessary to deal with the government and its policy from the inside.”
Cordero de Agrait and Luna have followed unique paths throughout their architectural careers. However, both women share the accomplishment of shaping the landscape of Puerto Rico today.