Christopher Columbus arrived on Hispaniola on December 5, 1492, during the first of his four voyages to America. He claimed the island for Spain and named it La Española. In 1496 Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's brother, founded the city of Santo Domingo, currently the capital of the Dominican Republic, which makes it the oldest permanent settlement of the New World. The original city, known as "Zona Colonial" now finds itself in the heart of the largest metropolis in the Caribbean, on the west bank of the Ozama River.
From this first settlement, the Spaniards conquered other Caribbean islands and much of the American mainland. To layout their new cities in Spanish-America they used a unique pattern: the chessboard plan. The uniformity and extent of the model’s use is attributed to the provisions of the ‘Laws of the Indies’, which historians claim was based on the ‘idealized image’ of Santo Domingo. Its regular plan, so markedly different from the contemporary experience of the mediaeval towns in Europe, became the paradigmatic example of ‘the new city in the New World’.
The “Zona Colonial” is thus a prototypical city, whose “source code” or “pattern” has proliferated and mutated throughout the history of American city-making.
The work of the studio concentrated on El Malecon - the waterfront of the Colonial City and some other areas of Colonial Zone that declined rapidly since UNESCO declared it World Heritage, due to the imposed restrictions for operating within it. Through a series of architectural operations within Zone, the studio attempted to develop an architectural strategy that positions itself between autonomy and locality. The complexity of the location, strongly affected by geography, climate, history, economy and politics challenged students to define a suitable architectural language. The goal was to articulate a series of critical prototypes (for various self-defined programs) that could be able to position themselves within the dense context of Santa Domingo. The goal was to work directly with local architects, developers, politicians and environmentalists, assessing the potential of a “tropical prototype”. The collaboration with local experts thought students the new interdisciplinary attitude in a collaborative international atmosphere and added to the quality of their work.
We didn’t want to do a traditional site-specific work, but to investigate and produce a series of autonomous types to see how they could be developed independently, and then transformed, when inserted into a specific context. While working on "tropical prototypes" the students had to assess the local issues, from ecology and sustainability to construction, building techniques and material studies, in order to critically include them into the project work.
Neven Mikac Fuchs
Joana Sa Lima
Marta Bandrés Estella
Patricia Martinez Munoz
Miguel Teixeira Moreira