Aeronautical and Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico
José Javier Toro
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
José Javier Toro/Toro Arquitectos
Luis Rodriguez Nieves (Designer/Detailer) Alejandro Castro (Designer/Project Manager) Josean Merced (Designer) José Luis Pagán (Designer) Jonathan Vázquez (Designer)
Wilmer Arroyo, Aeronautical and Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico
The emblematic project of the Aeronautical and Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico called for the development of an educational infrastructure to support the operations of Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico. The Institute is to become a key structure that supports the growth and expansion of businesses as well as academic and research activities within the aeronautical and aerospace industries to ensure global presence and competitiveness. Its architectural development is the result of economic and political forces that inevitably bound the project to the conditions and demands of austerity. Budget is a crucial form giving element. The development of the Institute resulted in all possible strategies for saving materials and energy under the constraints of a $4,200,000.00 project exclusive of furniture, fixtures and equipment; offsite utilities, and parking. The project is composed of three main buildings: the new academic building, an existing hangar converted into workshops and an engine testing shed. The program brief called for a 30,000 square foot academic building for vocational, college and professional level courses. Administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, a simulation room, a computer center, a business center for professional students and a service core, are all contained within a simple two story concrete volume enclosed by a translucent polycarbonate skin mounted on aluminum frames. Creative modular arrangements and the use of simple materials reflect on topics that range from simplicity and ease to the aesthetics of austerity.
Economic resources play an ambiguous role in the production of architecture. On the one hand, money aggressively transgresses architectural concepts and limits formal experimentation, on the other, it encourages a successful relationship between budget and design. Such is the case of the Aeronautical and Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico (AAIPR) project, located in the former Ramey United States Air Force Base in the northwestern part of the island. The project arises in the midst of a deep economic recession in Puerto Rico. The government development agency has been marketing Puerto Rico as an ideal center for commercial aircraft maintenance with the purpose of diversifying the island’s industrial base to generate economic growth. As part of this strategic socioeconomic plan, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is promoting the development of personnel with skills and knowledge to sustain the aeronautical and aerospace industry/business emphasizing on operations dedicated to the maintenance, repair and overhaul of manned and unmanned aircrafts. The new institute, a non-profit corporate subsidiary of the University of Puerto Rico ascribed to the Aguadilla campus, leads this maintenance industry through its architectural iconic image and its programmatic integration to the Lufthansa Technical Training structure. The project is located in the Rafael Hernandez Airport in Hangar Road in Aguadilla. The new structure is bounded by a roadway to the north, one of the longest runways in the Caribbean, Central and South America to the south, an existing air cargo hangar to the east, and the Homeland Security Installations to the west.
The aerospace sector is currently undergoing an impressive growth in the island. The new Aeronautical and Aerospace Institute of Puerto Rico spearheads the nascent commercial aircraft maintenance industry developing in the northwest of the island. Planned, designed and built concurrently with Lufthansa Technik Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Hangar, the school prepares mechanics for the employment in fields related to aeronautics and aerospace. The institute also provides continual professional training to those seeking new aircraft certifications and professional development. The institution fulfills the training needs required by the market and the aerospace industry via a co-creation development model where industry, academia and government create new alternatives to develop a profitable economy in the island. As a result, the collaborative program between the AAIPR and the University of Puerto Rico graduated its first group of specialists in Aeronautical and Aerospace fields in the year 2015, all were hired by Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico. A ‘sense of place” is of fundamental value to citizens everywhere. More than an urban proclamation, the AAIPR building is a bold architectural statement that does not tackle the renovation of old military buildings, but engages in the fundamental reconstruction of the existing airport space via affordable design. The building, with its simple, elegant and self illuminated facade, adds to the life of the town and also serves as an iconic piece that reflects the possible revolutionary transformation of the constitution of military airport structures.