Rafael María Labra School / Contemporary Art Museum

Rafael María Labra School / Contemporary Art Museum

The Rafael M. Labra High School, located in Santurce, a sector of the municipality of San Juan, was one of the institutional structures built by the United States government as part of its program of Americanization for the island. The Georgian architecture and the use of brick as a construction material make the building unique among the institutional buildings of the island.

The structure, which dates to 1916, was built in the Georgian revival style and was designed by architect Adrian C. Finlayson, who was then the chief of the Public Buildings Division of the Interior Department of the island government. The structure has two stories with a U-shaped design that is closed with a single-story arcade that faces the front patio and encloses a sunken patio.

The façade consists of two Tuscan porticos of monumental scale with a single-story arcade. Each portico is raised on a podium with a stairway and has four columns that support a pediment adorned with a porthole. The wall is broken up by three doors with arches on the lower level and three rectangular windows in the upper level. The bricks in the walls, made in Ponce, are part of the ornamentation of the structure and contrast with the white terracotta details, such as the garlands, keystones and moldings. All of the roofs have two gables and are made of sheets of zinc.

The sunken interior patio is surrounded by arcades on both floors. In the center is a fountain linked to the bell in the roof of the rear part of the building, which emphasizes the symmetry and completes the huge space of the structure. The floors are made of polished concrete and terracotta, although originally the rooms had wood floors.

The Rafael M. Labra School building belonged to the Public Education Department of Puerto Rico until 1995. That year, a restoration of the school was begun under the direction of Puerto Rican architect Otto Reyes Casanova and the project continued until 2002, when the government gave the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art the right to use the building. The school has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987.

Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Catalog of Properties, National Register of Historic Sites, State Office of Historic Conservation, Office of the Governor, 1995.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 08, 2014.

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