The Narciso Rabell Cabrero School was built in 1924 and designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by architect Rafael Carmoega. It arose through the efforts by the U.S. government to Americanize education in the public schools and an interest in providing incentives for construction. It was part of the transition to an architectural technology of construction that used reinforced concrete and it followed the design that was in vogue at the time, the Spanish Renaissance style. Many details of its design were later used by the same architect in the design of the University of Puerto Rico. It was designed with the island’s climate in mind. It has good ventilation and protection against natural phenomena. It uses galleries and internal stairways as the main way of circulation. Originally, the high ceilings were made of wood and zinc with four gables. The original windows were made of wood and were made of two Persian panes and glass. The rear façade is symmetrical and has three levels: the first is a semi-basement and supports the building. There are galleries in the center of the two main levels and the main level has an arcade of nine arches. The main rear entrance has a stairway and a bell in the upper gallery. Entrance to the main floor is by way of a vestibule marked by arches that connect with the upper floor. Moving from the vestibule and the galleries leads to the classrooms. When entering from the rear, two pavilions lead to the gallery on the first level via the stairway.

The Narciso Rabell Cabrera School was an elementary school that initially had nine classrooms. It later became the first secondary school in San Sebastián. In 1942, it was a middle school and high school at the same time, which required the implementation of staggered class sessions.

Its architectural design has undergone changes, however, such as the replacement of shutters with aluminum, and the roof of wood and zinc with four gables is now a flat roof of reinforced concrete. Additionally, the rear entrance is no longer the way it was in the beginning. Its spaciousness has been maintained despite all of the ramps and stairways built (without appropriate planning) to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite this, the Narciso Rabell Cabrero School is an architectural jewel that stands out among the early uses of the elements of Spanish Renaissance style in Puerto Rico and is part of the exquisite work of Rafael Carmoega.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: January 28, 2016.

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