El Monte

ElMonte-sig2.jpg
Hato Rey, PR
United States
El Monte

Situated inland from San Juan and developed between 1952 and 1958, Puerto Rico’s first Post War planned, multi-family residential community was part of an urban renewal project intended to provide housing for a quickly rising population. The Modernist, crescent-shaped apartment buildings and their surrounds were completed in two phases: first, the northern section was designed by architect Edward Larabee Barnes in conjunction with a local firm, Reed, Basora and Menendez. Hideo Sasaki contributed the landscape design. The southern portion was designed by the architectural firm of Torres, Beauchamp and Marvel with local landscape architect Hunter Randolph.

Named for the knoll on which it was sited, the housing replaced a blighted neighborhood. Seamlessly incorporating communal and private spaces through a landscape design which experimented with tropical flora, the integrative plan provided a model for Modernist landscape design in the Caribbean. Creating a park in the midst of a crowded city, the design team provided recreational facilities (including playgrounds and swimming pools) alongside open lawn and shaded parkland connected by curvilinear pedestrian paths. The mid-rise buildings seem to float above a continuous, green ground plane that transitions from the public realm of the street to secluded interior gardens via an entry court that frames distant vistas. Rudolph adapted and amended Sasaki’s planting scheme, which features ficus trees, geometric planting beds, and swaths of plants chosen for texture and color, with flora native to the island climate.