One Year Later: How Designers are Rebuilding Puerto Rico

Blog posted On September 26, 2018

Maria Gabriela Flores, an architect based in San Juan, was home when Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico with 155-mile-per-hour winds and, in some areas, 20 inches of torrential rain. She was fortunate. Her home, an older structure in the Miramar area, was built from reinforced concrete and survived with no major damage. But just three miles away in Caño Martin Pena—a dense, low-lying area adjacent to the Caño Martin Pena canal and filled with informal construction—the effects were far worse. Winds ripped roofing—often nothing more than galvanized metal sheets—off 1,200 houses.

“We had just had another hurricane a few days before, Irma, and we thought, ‘Oh it’s just hurricane season,’” Flores tells Curbed. “No one imagined the intensity or the gravity of the situation that was coming our way.”

Soon after the storm passed, Flores received an urgent call from a local architecture guild asking volunteers to help triage damage and put tarps over the roofless homes, an essential first step before permanent reconstruction. Then in January, Flores began working with Project Enlace—a local advocacy group for people living in Caño Martin Pena—to install stronger roofs.