Inverted Landmarks: Ismael Segarra

Ismael Segarra

I'm a recent B.Arch graduate from Syracuse University, originally from Puerto Rico. I'm currently working at Stantec in Boston.

Instagram: @isma_con_insta

Inverted Landmarks

Rehabilitating San Juan’s vacant structures through the re-shaping of the contextual formal language. Advisor: Gregory Corso

Description: Established in 1521 as a Spanish settlement, Old San Juan is the oldest remaining settlement in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is an important touristic location, receiving about 4 million tourists a year. The area is characterized by its bright, pastel colored facades, narrow cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial architecture. Many structures contain interior courtyards, giving a unique porosity to the urban fabric.

Despite Old San Juan's historical importance, an increase in vacancies has led to the decay and dilapidation of various structures throughout the years. Puerto Rico's strict building code and historic preservation regulations make it difficult to both renovate and maintain these structures, especially if they lack a programmatic purpose. As a result, many have remained in a state of deterioration for what is decades now, with no foreseeable change in sight.

The proposal consists of creating new landmarks within the abandoned structures of Old San Juan; giving them back to the tourist in the form of intimate public spaces. Inverted Landmarks doesn’t argue for a specific formal technique, but rather, it argues for an attitude towards generating new architectural formal expression in a historic city by utilizing contextual architectural elements. These new landmarks are embedded within the existing urban fabric; opposing the traditional objectification of the landmark. The project is a critique on the strict building code of historic cities like Old San Juan. Inverted Landmarks begin to test how existing architectural context and cultural elements can be utilized as a catalyst to generate not only form, but new types of spatial experiences.