Escuela de Artes Plasticas
🇵🇷 Old San Juan

Escuela de Artes Plasticas y Diseño, Old San Juan

There are many esteemed institutions of higher learning scattered about the Caribbean. Few of them, though, are as eye-catching as la Escuela de Artes Plasticas y Diseño (School of Plastic Arts and Design). 

The school is located at the northern edge of Old San Juan directly facing the entrance to El Morro. It is distinguished as the top design school in Puerto Rico, offering bachelor’s degrees in a broad range of art and design studies. Students hone their skills in photography, sculpture, painting, industrial design, graphic arts, fashion design and more amid these stately surrounds.

La Escuela de Artes Plasticas was established in 1965. The iconic structure in which the school is housed, though, has a much longer (and more uncommon) history.

The building was originally built in 1854. Spanish colonial rule was in effect in Puerto Rico at the time. In fact, the structure was built by royal decree. Its original purpose: to serve as an insane asylum.

Indeed, the Escuela de Artes Plasticas building is more commonly known as Edificio El Manicomio. This loosely translates to “The Madhouse Building” in English.

El Manicomio’s tenure living up to its name, though, was fairly short-lived. Everything changed for the building, and all of Puerto Rico for that matter, in 1898. That’s when the U.S. Military invaded as part of the Spanish-American War.

In short order, The Madhouse was converted into the Fort Brooke Military Reservation Army Barracks. The building’s association with the U.S. Army extended all the way until 1961. (This despite the fact that the Manicomio was transferred to the Department of the Interior with the establishment of the San Juan National Historic Site in 1949.)

A few years later, paint brushes and easels replaced guns and ammo, breathing hopeful new life into this viejo san juan architectural treasure. 

Send this to a friend