LOCATION : Culebrita, Puerto Rico
PROJECT AREA : 196,000 ft²
PROJECT YEAR : 2019
The Culebrita Lighthouse is located in the in the island Culebrita, east of the island of Culebra in Puerto Rico. Its original location was decided after careful study and recommendations of a
Commission that revised the first Plan de Alumbrado Marítimo (Marine Lighting Plan). A Royal Decree approved its final location on July 15, 1877, at the highest point- seventy six meters above sea level of the dramatic landscape of the island.
The development of the Culebrita Lighthouse is part of a lighthouse network in the region that parallels the sea trade enterprise that took place in the Caribbean following European colonization. Andalusian engineer Manuel Maese Peña was responsible for the design and construction of the Culebrita Lighthouse as well as the development of more than a dozen landmarks on the main island. He was 24 years old when he arrived in Puerto Rico in 1881, where he worked until 1887.
The initial design of the Culebrita Lighthouse is dated December 20, 1881. Its original construction required minor changes that were eventually performed by Maese Peña on December 14, 1883.
The form and design of the lighthouse was dictated by two main factors: efficiency and functionality. Its unique E-shape solution responded to specific programmatic requirements that included two apartments, one for the first keeper and his family and the other for the assistant keeper; two office spaces, two WCs, a fuel deposit, and a big cistern.
The need to make the structure recognizable from different directions called for a symmetrical scheme composed of a central volume containing a cylindrical tower, office space and vertical
circulation, flanked by two lateral volumes containing the living quarters. Built in neoclassical style, a vocabulary commonly used for institutional buildings around the island, the elaborated cornices, beautiful crowned tower and tripartite organization, are some of the features that characterize this structure.
ARCHITECTURE: THE HISTORIC AND THE GENERATIVE
The restored lighthouse with the heliport as its “technological wings” are proposed as complementary elements of a sustainable
design that will display an interplay of many contrasting opposites:
-Past, Old (preservation) vs. Future, New (change)
-Static (Maintenance, Conservation) vs. Dynamic (Accepted Change, Evolution)
-Use (Consumption of Energy) vs Production (of energy, freshwater)
-Gravity (masonry, heavy, solid walls) vs. lightness (polycarbonate, light, transparent)
-Architectural Presence (object over a knoll) vs. Architectural Absence (Services hidden in cavities, partially buried)
LANDSCAPE: THE WILD AND THE CULTIVATED
The planting strategy builds upon the wild and natural character of the site and the commitment to use only native and endemic species. The aim is to foster a fine balance between restoration of habitat
loss and creation of new plant communities that may better adapt to the current climate and soil
conditions. The goal is to gradually replenish diversity in the deciduous and semi-evergreen types of dry forest along the path to the lighthouse in the steeper and more wind-protected slopes, and to enrich the cactus scrub and sheared littoral scrub communities, not only with species that once existed before human and animal disturbance, but also with others that might be able to establish themselves in a new way with a little help with proper planting practices, grading and soil design.