Founders of a pioneer academic program

From left: José Lorenzo, Mundy Colón, Olga Angueira, and José Juan Terrasa-Soler. Photo by Joao Proenca.

Four alumni of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) are founding faculty members of the first landscape architecture program in the Caribbean. Olga Angueira, M.L.A. ‘04, José Lorenzo, M.A.U.D. ‘05, Edmundo (Mundy) Colón, M.L.A. ‘06, and José Juan Terrasa-Soler, M.L.A. ’07, teach at the new School of Landscape Architecture of the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, in San Juan. The School offers a 3-year Master of Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.) program, which opened in August 2006 and graduated its third class last June. The proposal for the School was originally developed by landscape architect Marisabel Rodríguez and architects Jaime Suárez and Jorge Rigau, who recruited the first faculty, including the four Harvard alumni.

One of the very few landscape architecture programs located in the world’s tropics, the Polytechnic’s program has already graduated 22 new landscape architects. When the School opened in 2006, there were only about 35 landscape architects in Puerto Rico. Thus, this program alone has caused a 63% increase in the number of these professionals on the island. The M.L.A. program is also raising regional interest and a student from Guatemala recently graduated.

The curriculum is structured around a sequence of core design studios that take students from the garden scale all the way up to the urban and regional scales. The disciplinary focus on systems – natural, social, and built – is stressed both in theoretical and in design courses. The students’ academic experience is capped off with the development of a design thesis, which must be defended before the faculty.

Faculty research focuses on the history of landscape architecture in the Caribbean, with emphasis on Puerto Rican landscape architecture. Another important focal area of research is the adaptation to the tropics of green infrastructure concepts developed for temperate landscapes. Most faculty members, including the Harvard alumni, combine teaching and research with professional practice in the public and private sectors.

The Polytechnic M.L.A. program has been accredited by the Puerto Rico Council on Higher Education and recently went through a successful accreditation visit by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB), which accredits landscape architecture programs throughout the United States. The Polytechnic M.L.A. program expects to receive LAAB accreditation this Fall.

Niall Kirkwood, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology at the GSD, and GSD alumna Kathryn Gleason, M.L.A. ’83, were members of the accreditation board that first reviewed the program for the Puerto Rico Council on Higher Education.

“Having the opportunity to collaborate with other recent graduates of the GSD in a foundational project like this is extraordinarily exciting and fulfilling,” says José Juan Terrasa-Soler, M.L.A. ‘07. “The rigorous training we received at Harvard prepared us to break new ground in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean,” he concluded.



About José Juan Terrasa-Soler

JJ is a registered landscape architect, ecologist, and university professor living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is a practicing Buddhist and enjoys hiking, nature exploration, amateur astronomy, and fountain pens.
This entry was posted in architecture, landscape, Puerto Rico, urbanism. Bookmark the permalink.

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