Helping To Restart Puerto Rico

Architecture Professor Martha Kohen has spearheaded the effort known as the Puerto Rico Re_Start Project. In March, she went to Puerto Rico along with colleagues and students to help after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The Puerto Rico Re_Start International Project and Research Workshop was held at the University of Puerto Rico – Recinto Rio Piedras in San Juan. This effort was supported by the University of Florida through the Center for Latin American Studies, the Office of Research, the International Center, the Conference Department, the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, the School of Architecture and the College of Design, Construction and Planning.

Kohen was a director of this workshop along with Dr. Anna Georas from the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Architecture.

According to the workshop’s summary, “the island became a necessary field for advancing proposals addressing the preservation of the natural resources while elevating the human settlement conditions to procure a viable future. The Puerto Rico Re_Start Workshop, through interdisciplinary inter-institutional collaborations, addressed challenges of urban planning, architecture, economics, environmental engineering, historic preservation and landscape.”

Along with the UF and Puerto Rican contingent, scholars and professors from Italy and Spain also participated. The UF group included five professors, two Ph.D. scholars, 12 juniors, nine seniors and eight graduate students while the University of Puerto Rico had eight professors and 40 students. In total, there were 127 participants.

Students worked together in teams with invited and local professors to develop integrative and interdisciplinary proposals, with the input of local stakeholders, communities, private developers and the municipalities of Loiza, Canovanas and San Juan. The proposals were publicly discussed and presented to a jury.

Design labs were held and a parallel lecture series engaged the visitors and the wider public. As a result, multilateral collaborations and research proposals were established.

This ongoing process included a recent presentation in New York and an upcoming one in Puerto Rico.

“This process involves open discussion, showing possibilities and engaging with authorities to go beyond repair,” Kohen stated. “We want to make a resilient future instead of repairing. It has multiple dimensions including job creation.”

To learn more about the Puerto Rico Re_Start, visit To learn more about Martha Kohen, read her faculty profile at

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