From a Hospital to a Museum

Originally, the building of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico was the surgery section for the San Juan Municipal Hospital. Discover the architectural evolution of today's museum.

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New Surgery Hospital and Maternity Hospital: 1924–1930

In the early 1920s, state architect Rafael Carmoega chose young architect William Schimmelpfennig to design a new surgery hospital to meet the increasing demand for hospital services by patients from all over San Juan. 

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The largest hospital on the island

The location of the building on the new Avenida de Diego would entirely reconfigure the original layout of the hospital complex.  

The Surgery Hospital (today the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico) would follow the style of the other elements of the complex.

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In keeping with the taste of the time: a French Neoclassical

Its entrance portico included an entablature of Tuscan proportions, supported on Doric columns. The lower third of the main columns, before the entasis began, was striated. Most of the façade’s windows were arched, with the Bermuda shutters typical of the period.

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Keep the babies coming!

Construction on the new Surgery Hospital, under the supervision of Schimmelpfennig, began in 1924 and was completed in 1928. That same year, the original structure that had housed the first Surgery Hospital became, with substantial remodeling, the new Maternity Hospital.

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Expansions to the Municipal Hospital: 1930–1949

Between 1930 and 1949, the campus quite actively continued to expand. Among the new buildings were the Pediatrics Hospital (1930), the Chronic Disease Pavilion (1947), and the Island Insane Asylum (1947).

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The new route toward Modernism

At the end of the 1940s, traditional Neo-French, Spanish Colonial, and Neoclassical architecture—styles preferred during the first half of the twentieth century—were displaced by Modernism. This new architectural focus was employed almost universally at the  institutional level and across the island. 

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Klumb... Henry Klumb

At the same time, a passionate public debate emerged on the future viability of the San Juan Municipal Hospital, leading to even greater uncertainty over the future of the complex, whose principal buildings dated back to the early years of the century.  The new trend toward Modernism led to the hiring of now-renowned architect Henry Klumb for the design and development of the new University Center Clinic and amphitheater.  

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Last Expansion and Relocation: 1950–1966

After Klumb’s work, only two further installations were added to the hospital complex: the laundry in 1955 and the central laboratory in 1958, both temporary, with functional forms and façades with louvered windows. These facilities became part of the last construction on the hospital complex known as the San Juan Municipal Hospital, which would formally close its doors in 1966.

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Metamorphosis and Rebirth: 1996–Present

The rebirth of the historic structure located at 299 Avenida de Diego in Santurce and its transformation from a hospital to a museum would coincide with the arrival of the new millennium.          

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The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

In 1966, as a joint project of the Government Development Bank and the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, work was begun on the rehabilitation of the former San Juan Municipal Hospital building to turn it into the official home of the new Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, (MAPR).

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The architects

To oversee the restoration of the former Surgery Hospital and to design, build, and integrate a new structure to meet all a modern museum’s needs, present and future, the services of architects Otto Reyes Casanova and Luis A. Gutiérrez Negrón (The Museum Group).

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Respecting the past while embracing the future

This complex project was completed in 2000 with the inauguration of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. The result is a regal structure, its design balanced, in the contemporary vein, with a fluidity of architecture that links two centuries and two visions under a single roof.

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Majestic Grand Atrium

The compact five-level structure is tailored to the demands of multidisciplinary programming, and it has been designed for flexibility and openness in the exhibition spaces. The centerpiece of the Museum’s interior layout is the Grand Atrium, which joins  the two buildings that make up the Museum.

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Inspiring atmosphere

The design of the public spaces and galleries is calm and sober, so that the works of art may be the stars of the stage. Materials such as wood and marble from Juana Díaz were used in order to give the building a local yet contemporary feel.

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Main façade, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (2000)

As the principal focus of this new vision of urban development, the new Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico was reborn in Santurce.

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#299 De Diego Avenue

Today, the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is the artistic, social, and cultural crossroads of the historic Santurce sector of San Juan.

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Metamorphosis is in nature, art and in architecture

Today, its structure and enchanted gardens inspires architects, but beyond that, the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, in its ever-evolving and always-relevant role within the community and within the nation, inspires us all.

Enjoy an in depth interview with architect and art collector Otto Octavio Reyes Casanova, responsible of the master plan for the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. In a candid conversation he talks about how he got to be selected for the restoration of a historic structure and the creation of a new wing for the MAPR.

Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico - Apuntes de Arquitectura con Astrid Díaz, From the collection of: Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
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Listen to architect Astrid Díaz, for a presentation of the completion of the first stage of reconstruction: the external façades of the main building and the first works of art of MAPR's collection, prior to its inauguration in 2000.

The famous Koi fish pond at the Sculpture Botanic Garden in the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. 

A 1998 visualization of the original project for Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, considered the most important cultural turn of the century project in the island.

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