The former School of Tropical Medicine is located in the Puerta de Tierra sector on the outskirts of Old San Juan. This institution was created as a semi-autonomous unit of the University of Puerto Rico in 1924 after the approval of Joint Resolution Number 3 of June 23, 1924. It was the first institution of its kind in the hemisphere that was dedicated to studying and preventing tropical diseases.
The structure, designed by architect Rafael Carmoega in the 1920s, displays the Plateresque architectural style, which uses motifs that allude to the decorative art of silversmiths (platero, in Spanish, which gives the style its name). The style is characterized by the use of ornamental elements independent of the structure itself. The ornamentation is concentrated around the doors and windows, contrasting with the simple surfaces around them. The composition of the façade incorporates elements of this style such as seals, pilasters, scrolls, pinnacles and relief.
The complex consists of three reinforced concrete buildings, each three stories tall. These housed the administrative offices, the library, the laboratories and the hospital. The first building, aligned from east to west, is rectangular and has a large interior patio. The second building is U-shaped and is joined to the first one at the base. The third is rectangular and is attached to the second building at the extreme south end of the “U,” perpendicular to it. The complex’s roofs are made of glazed tiles and the windows are made of wood with panes of glass.
In 1949, the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly approved a law transforming the School of Tropical Medicine to the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. During the 1960s, the school was gradually moved to the Medical Sciences Campus in Río Piedras. Once the structure was vacated, it was used for various offices of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and some offices of the Puerto Rico Senate. In 2006, these offices were moved to other sites.
The structure has been listed on the United States Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places since 1983. The complex is currently undergoing a renovation project supported by the Legislative Assembly.
Original source: Catalog of Properties, National Registry 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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