Dominican Architecture

The Dominican Republic is a unique showcase of architectural trends and styles representing centuries-old history of art and construction skills and techniques, which portray the human struggle for adaptation, the search for shelter and comfort, and the manifestation of artistic inspirations.

In a secular evolution, the national structural design fills the spaces with creative versatility. It welcomes and transforms the vernacular of the Taíno roots, the Hispanic heritage, and adapts to the global trends of all times. In the most recent works, it blends with avant-garde high-tech models and changes the urban landscape with vertical flights bursting with eclecticism.

The history of its roots, assimilation and beauty is told by the shacks, the low-cost dwellings, the modern structures of the upper and middle classes, and the legacy of its colonial past.

It is told by “the colonial city’s walls and cobblestone streets that treasure a series of ‘firsts’ in America: the first cathedral, the first castle, the first fortress,” as the book “Lo Dominicano/All Things Dominican,” by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD), points out.

“The country’s syncretism is a constant… in the colonial facades, the European balconies and columns, the indigenous elements, the popular architecture that combines rural and urban realities within the framework of the climate, the available resources and the historical influences.” (Lo Dominicano/All Things Dominican)

The Gothic, Moorish, Mudéjar, Plateresque, Renaissance, Baroque, and neo-Classical motifs converge throughout the country. The Victorian, Republican, Modern and Postmodern styles can be traced as well.

In the suburban background, the “typical house” with its Antillean elements, corrugated tin roofs, sawn lumber, latticework windows, concrete floors and colorful colors, survives in the neighborhoods as well as alongside roads. (Lo Dominicano/All Things Dominican)

The past and the present come together in the architecture of the 21st century. The native bohío lives on in the rural dwelling of cana, yagua and vines.

Its elements, design and plant materials are integrated into contemporary structures that have an “indigenous flavor,” as the Punta Cana airport illustrates. Also, some villas and hotel buildings are updated to charm visitors. (Lo Dominicano/All Things Dominican)

In the process of the post-modern transformations of the late 20th century, cities such as Santo Domingo lose their horizontal profiles in pursuit of the eclectic verticality of an international architectural style that predominates in the 21st century.

The city changes very rapidly and these transformations change the residential areas to the point of making them unrecognizable in the eyes of the city dwellers themselves. The stately homes of enormous gardens disappear just as quickly as the middle and low income homes. The towers, squares and shopping malls that currently envelop and define the urban space rise at the same pace.

Facing the international post-modernity, Dominican architects seek their own looks, incorporating into their designs elements of the culture, climate and space with a fluid vision that is open to anything new without losing the native features.

In the past, their colleagues dealt with similar dilemmas.

In its long history since the Republic was established, national architecture has progressed to the beat of history’s ups and downs, etched with the lights and shadows of the national development.

First Period (1844-1865)

While the world launched glass and steel and prefabricated structures made of cast iron and glass, such as the Crystal Palace in London (1851), Dominican architecture was stagnant in the Republican neo-Colonial style, depressed by wars that took place during the 21-year period between the establishment of the Republic and its restoration in 1865.

Dominicans were living in poverty, in the midst of a stalled economy and agriculture, and the scarce resources were invested in weapons and military supplies.

The most complete example of a city was Santo Domingo, with walls in three of its key cardinal points – north, south and west – and twelve fortresses and smaller brigades, in addition to three other fortresses that protected the eastern flank, one of them positioned at the mouth of the Ozama River.

The walled city, rebuilt in 1502 by the Spanish Governor Nicolás de Ovando on the west bank of the Ozama River, was in clear decline when the birth of the nation. The palaces, fortresses, houses, churches and squares were a “monumental run-down.”

What survived from the colonial period was the architectural scheme, the rectilinear streets in “checkerboard” or grid pattern, crossed at right angles and forming regular blocks, and the buildings raised next to each other.

Family life continued unfolding in the turned inward structures, with internal patios, austere facades, tall doors, barred windows, with brick cornices, flat tiles and a foundation.

When the Republic was established, the city was still dominated by its mediaeval architectural background of adobe walls and whitewashing; the Renaissance presence; the Gothic-Elizabethan, Moorish and Mudejar details in its buildings.

The decadence of the Plateresque style palaces with their Gothic-Renaissance mix that shared space with the austere structures of the Herreriano-Hispanic style, which is defined by its simplicity and bareness, was oppressive.

The majority of adobe houses of the Republican neo-Colonial period were single-story and, to a lesser extent, two-story houses. They were built in the center of the city for wealthy residents, who began to install gravel-like ceramic floors.

The streets came to an end in the surroundings and the periphery of the historic district. The dirt roads were filthy and irregular. The humble huts with walls made of thin wood logs, reeds or bamboos joined together by tiding them up, and gable or hip roofs made of yagua or cana and wooden planks, without change of inclination, thrived.

While wealthy families imitated the Hispanic model, the poor transmitted the Taíno heritage out of necessity, building their huts with wooden poles buried in the ground and secured by vines, as well as the “atarazanas” or arbors made of wood and covered with large palm leaves.

Outside the walls, on a nearby hilly place, developed the town of San Carlos de Tenerife, established by people from the Canary Islands in 1684, and the roads of Gascue were opened.

What prevailed in the rural areas were the simple rectangular huts, made of yagua, where people only slept because they spent their days in the open air, working in their conucos or resting under their arbors.

Other huts had walls of forked props, shingles or painted boards. They were built, to this day, by family members or a group of neighbors.

Second Period (1866-1899)

In the 33 years since the Restoration of the Republic and until the end of President Ulises Heureaux’s administration, Dominican architecture flourishes hand-in-hand with economic improvements, electrical and telephone services, the telegraph, and railway mechanization.

Reinforced concrete is introduced at this stage; the real estate business is born, and asbestos cement, iron, slate and clay tiles, bricks and wood begin to be imported.

The modified Colonial, neo-Colonial Republican, Victorian and Vernacular styles prevailed as trends.

The modified Colonial style kept its Hispanic scheme, with new additions adopted from North America, such as the moldings on the facades, pastiche or disguising.

The new buildings that were constructed during the Republican Colonial style had reduced floor plans and colonial facades, and incorporated elements that appeared at that time.

The doors and windows had rectilinear or pyramidal cornices, and door and window openings in high relief, framed in pastiche, either arched, rectangular or a combination. They had higher parapets and more reliefs in the coat of plaster. Some buildings incorporated ornaments from the French neo-Classicism, in the form of stucco with timid coatings of high relief.

The Victorian style arrived in the country in 1870 and grew with greater magnificence in the city of Puerto Plata, which was then the largest gateway for trade with foreign countries.

The Victorian buildings, of the West Indies English vernacular, were built mainly of wood because of its low cost, although some were made of brick. Their rooms had polyhedral shapes – three to five sides – that functioned as bay windows, and the facades had multiple projections, cornices, gables, fans, small columns and turned balusters.

Other features of the Victorian homes were the variety of openwork displayed by the festoons of the eaves that extended to the tops of the galleries and to the lateral facades. Other significant elements are the finely worked wood and the mass-produced pieces made of iron, imported from abroad and assembled locally.

Also, there were some variations of the Anglo-Antillean style and the ‘gingerbread’ houses with English, French and American doors and Victorian style balconies.

The Dominican vernacular style was enriched with Victorian elements, such as exterior ornaments made of turned or drilled wood in balusters and corbels; fans, the space between the pediment and the cornices, a variety of festoons in the upper part of the partitions separating the different rooms of the houses; walls and ceilings lined with meticulously worked planks; French wooden door shutters; and, fans of geometric shapes featuring hand-held fan motifs, located over the doors.

Another influence was the introduction of zinc plates for a gable roof, replacing the traditional roof made of yagua and boards, and the use of this metal for building the walls.

Santo Domingo underwent substantial changes. The city emerged from behind its walls, in which holes were opened. However, the walls retained their important sense of security and the perception that there was a boundary between the urban and the rural areas. The first holes were opened in 1883, and by 1888 and 1900 the gates of El Conde, La Misericordia and San Diego had been removed.

In 1893, Santo Domingo had 2,654 houses and the commercial use of its land greatly intensified. The commercial premises clustered in the so-called Navarijo area, which comprised the El Conde and Arzobispo Nouel streets, from Calle Sánchez, and the northeast part of Santa Bárbara. There was a host of small shops, such as bakeries, grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, butchers and blacksmith workshops.

The central area, located between the El Conde, Sánchez and Isabel la Católica streets, up to the market square, housed the best shops, hotels and businesses, including two large import warehouses.

Markets were places where intense commercial transactions took place; for example, in the Plaza de las Verduras, as well as in the New, the Old, and the so-called La Ceiba markets, near the port.

During this period, two important public works were built: the iron bridge with wooden planks over the Ozama River – reconstructed twice due to natural disasters and located where the Ramón Matías Mella currently is – and the wharf with iron arbors on the Ozama River, which was built in mid-1870 and expanded in 1890.

In addition, the La Sabana Municipal Cemetery was expanded, a military hospital and a municipal laboratory were built, and the postal service was reorganized.

The first electric lights were lit in the Parque Colón on February 27, 1896, from a plant located in the Timbeque area to the Northeast, outside the city walls.

Land was divided into a disorganized pattern of subdivisions with irregular plots, which reduced the size of the blocks and of the buildings that stood next to each other, especially in the disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Adobe walls continued to be the main building material, and thick, small-sized bricks and wood were used on the floors. Second floors became separate units, which led to the addition of outside stairs. At the same time, the symmetry and regularity of the components of the facades were stressed. The width and length of the streets remained the same.

The grid layout of the city extended beyond the city walls in what would later be known as the Ciudad Nueva.

Third Period (1900-1930)

The first thirty years of the 20th century were highly fruitful for Dominican architecture. The buildings constructed using reinforced concrete changed the urban appearance, and many of them have become classics, worthy of being preserved.

The concrete’s high degree of flexibility and the number of construction alternatives exerted a decisive influence on the architectural changes of this period. Introduced by Catalan immigrants who settled in Santo Domingo and in San Pedro de Macorís, the material outlined the profile of the metropolitan area, by promoting a vertical growth.

The new multi-story buildings added height to the city skyline and created the sensation of space closure. A prominent contributor to this process was Puerto Rican Engineer Benigno Trueba Soares, the son of Spanish parents.

Santo Domingo developed beyond its old boundaries, the city walls disappeared and what had been the walled city, by 1930 was an additional sector, although it remained the main commercial, social and political center, even when the presidential mansion and the Secretariat of Development and Communications were built in the outskirts of the city.

The city developed in a west-northwest direction with housing for the upper classes, and with a north-northwest direction with housing for the poor, who, for economic reasons, remained faithful to the Hispanic style and the use of the adobe walls.

The vernacular style remained in the houses made of wood and zinc, while old constructions of the Republican neo-Colonial style changed their iron balustrades for others made of concrete.

For the well-off, eclecticism became the norm as they used new and old elements. Thus, the neo-Colonial blueprints were mixed with new styles, such as the neo-Classical, the Art Nouveau, the Folkloric, the neo-Hispanic, the neo-Mudéjar, the Californian with Spanish flavor, the bungalow, as well as the English plantation style.

The neo-Classical Creole style dominated with greater strength in the official Colonial buildings, transforming the facades, adding elements related to composition: simple, severe and cold lines, symmetry, volume simplicity and sober decorations, flat windows and doors with singular and triangular cornices, in addition to hand-held fan motifs located over the doors, and plastering to strengthen the lines of the elevation. The use of prefabricated concrete elements was welcomed.

Osvaldo Báez, a Dominican Architect who was educated in France and was the son of President Buenaventura Báez, promoted the use of the French Republican style. He was in charge of the restoration of the Government Palace, currently the Museum of Casas Reales.

The Art Nouveau or Mannerist Naturism thrived between 1890 and 1910 in an experimental architecture imported by Catalans which merged tropical elements with European modernism. The style favored structures whose appearance seemed to be asymmetrical, the long and twisting lines representing nature, which softened the straight lines of the Colonial neo-Classic. It took advantage of concrete and only covered the composition of the elevation with no impact on the planimetric plans.

An example of the Art Nouveau is Casa de las Raíces, built in the Gascue neighborhood during the first decade of the 20th century, by Zoilo Hermógenes García, a Civil Engineer from La Vega, with help from Catalan master masons and builders José Turull, Jaime Malla and José Doménech. Tree trunks, branches and roots became the visual and structural elements of the dwellings. (Lo Dominicano/All Things Dominican)

The Folkloric style, which incorporates elements of popular art, developed as a way to resist the influence brought by the American invasion of 1916, had two tracts. One was the neo-Hispanic style, which emphasized the use of red tiles on cornices of doors, windows and roofs; white walls of smooth or rough stucco; paired colonnades in the windows and foyers; half-point arches and glazed ceramics.

Spanish Architect Pedro de Castro was renowned in this area, and examples of his work are found in houses located on the Hostos and Arzobispo Nouel streets.

The other tract was the neo-Mudéjar style, with roofs that separated the areas and set volumetric differentiations within the framework of major compositional themes, as well as arabesque details in the arches, reliefs and ceramics. It was developed in San Pedro de Macorís and in Santo Domingo, where a house located on Calle José Reyes still retains this type of style.

The models brought in by the Americans during the years of the occupation – 1916-1924 – fostered the harmonious integration of the building with nature, the prevalence of horizontal lines, corridors, sloping roofs, raised floors on posts or a foundation, volumetric autonomy and a landscaped environment. The style, which requires a large amount of land, could not take root inside the walled city. It was promoted by Juan de la Cruz Alfonseca and Antonín Nechodojma.

The California style is characterized by its Spanish flavor; it plays with volumes and it has red tile roofs and whitewashed walls. The old Quinta de Michelena, located on Independencia Avenue, and the current headquarters of the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, exemplifies this style.

The English plantation style is recognized by the corridor that runs around the entire perimeter of the house, the zinc gabled roof, the front garden that serves as a waiting room to the house, and corridors. They are built using imported wood and have wicker furniture. The first house of that style was the Pullman residence, built in the 1910s. It would later become the Presidential Mansion and even later the National Palace.

In the Californian bungalow style, a corridor or veranda surrounds the simple, one level house with a hip zinc roof and colonnades in the front porch, which encompass the projection of the eaves.

The Office of Public Works, which built roads and the sewer system during the government of Ramón Cáceres from 1905-1911, was among the outstanding public buildings of this period.

The first aqueduct of the capital was built in 1929, in an outlet of the Isabela River. The school infrastructure expanded with the motivation given to education by Eugenio María de Hostos. The authorities rebuilt the Padre Billini hospital and expanded the telegraph and telephone systems and the power lines.

At the end of 1930, around 60,000 people lived in Santo Domingo. Urban expansions began to proliferate without any kind of regulatory plan.

Lots were transformed into villas with large residences surrounded by courtyards and gardens, and fences made of iron or concrete blocks.

El Conde Street remained as the main commercial artery, the one chosen by Arab and Spanish immigrants who wanted to set up their diverse and exclusive businesses.

Two other high-profile commercial streets were the Santo Tomás, which currently is known as the Arzobispo Nouel, and El Comercio, today Isabel la Católica, where the banking institutions and large import houses were located.

Fourth Period (1930-1961)

A new urban model defines the profile of Santo Domingo during this period. The city emerges with a new look after the devastation caused by the San Zenón hurricane that took place in 1930, a month after the rise to power of Dictator Rafael L. Trujillo Molina.

Architecture gained considerable strength due to the influx from government and private works. Outstanding engineers and architects showcased their creativity in the design and construction of flexible and functional buildings that continue to exist as classics of their time.

The modern neo-Classical style, with vertical frames and facades featuring large columns inspired on Greco-Roman elements prevailed in government works. The purity and the symmetry of lines are showcased on a monumental scale.

In contrast, private projects displayed stylistic versatility with the appearance of the Art Deco in residences and buildings. Associated with the shape of a pyramid and the pre-Columbian and Oriental cultural elements, the style had a worldwide impact on skyscrapers; large company buildings, such as the Chrysler Building in New York; and, even on small businesses and low-income housing.

The construction business also incorporated a modern style of functional rationalism widespread in Europe at the time. It had simple geometric shapes and took the structure, space and function into consideration.

These buildings are distinguished by their raised blocks on pillars, plants and decoration-free facades, elongated windows, flat roofs, and gardens. The vertical and horizontal forms alternate and paint replaced the overlapping decorative details.

Constructions used the new materials of concrete, steel and glass.

The capital was rebuilt using the technique of concrete or concrete reinforced with steel bars, which resisted hurricanes better than wood. The city was renamed in 1936 with the name of Ciudad Trujillo.

During the second half of the 20th century, authorities had established the new urban spaces for housing, recreation and transit.

The central routes of the city plan were the Malecón Avenue or George Washington Avenue, the Máximo Gómez Avenue, and the Fabré Geffrard Avenue, today the Abraham Lincoln Avenue.

The first layout of the George Washington Avenue took place in 1931, from the Obelisk to the Güibia beach, followed in 1938 by the Máximo Gómez Avenue and the Western bypass, which later became the Lincoln Avenue.

In Gascue, the Danae, Osvaldo Báez, Doctor Delgado and the Mariano Lluberes streets were opened.

The old Presidential Mansion, the seat of government from 1924 to 1943, was replaced by the current National Palace. Engineer Guido D ‘Alessandro drew the building plans, which had neo-Classical lines and sits on ​​an area of 18,000 square meters. Its interior, gardens and dome, make it one of the most emblematic buildings.

A non-exhaustive inventory of government works of this period includes the following buildings:

  • Feria de la Paz, today Centro de los Héroes.
  • The National Palace.
  • The City Hall of the National District.
  • The Eugenio María de Hostos playground.
  • The Hamaca Hotel.
  • The Jaragua Hotel.
  • The Robert Reid Cabral Children’s Hospital.
  • The Obelisk with two bodies.
  • The University Campus.
  • The steel bridge over the Higuamo River.
  • The Police Department.
  • The Courthouse.
  • General Andrews Airport.
  • The Olympia and Elite Cinemas.
  • The Armed Forces Building.
  • The old building of the Central Bank.
  • The Palace of Education, Fine Arts and Religions.
  • The Palace of Fine Arts.
  • The Loyola Polytechnic Institute.
  • The National Lottery.
  • The Palace of Congress.
  • The Spain Pavilion, today Colegio Loyola.
  • The Water and Light Theater.
  • The Public Health Pavilion.
  • The Palace of Telecommunications.
  • Building of the Nation’s General Archives.

Numerous buildings were constructed in the provinces, some of them exceptional. For example, the neo-Classical and Romantic church of Nuestra Señora de la Consolación in San Cristóbal; Casa de Caoba, Castillo del Cerro, the Navy’s building, and a firefighter’s barracks.

Other examples are: the Arc de Triomphe, the Town Hall and the Maguana Hotel, in San Juan de la Maguana; the Monument to Peace, in Santiago; and, the Mountain Hotel, in Jarabacoa.

Private sector Dominican engineers and architects consolidated modernity and helped define Santo Domingo’s profile when they built the first condominiums, iconic residences and commercial buildings.

Among the most iconic, some Art Deco:

  • The Copello Building (1939).
  • The González Ramos Building (1946).
  • The Plavime House (1936).
  • The Fernández Building (1936).
  • The Baquero Building (in the 1940s).
  • The Saviñón Building (1946).
  • The Santos Building (1941).
  • The Book Institute Building (1952).

Between 1940 and 1950, Architect José Antonio Caro Álvarez built one of the first private neighborhood projects in Santo Domingo. It gave continuity to the La Julia district, which is reminiscent of the North American suburb houses.

Teófilo Carbonell Seijas built a group of apartments on Avenida Bolívar, Gascue, in 1955.

Architect Mario Lluberes Abreu built homes in Gascue with Hispanic and Mudéjar elements.

The homes of prominent families turned into period icons. These were: Casa Vapor, by Architect and Engineer Henry Gazón Bona; the Art Deco Mondesert residence, by Architect and Engineer Humberto Ruiz Castillo, and the Elmúdesi residence, considered “unique due to its proportions, harmonious forms and ornamental details,” built by Benigno de Trueba.

The leading figures of Dominican architecture during this period were: José Antonio Caro Álvarez, Guillermo González Sánchez, Humberto Ruiz Castillo, brothers Marcial and Leo Pou Ricart, trained in Belgium; Engineer Guido D ‘Alessandro, and Henry Gazón Bona, graduated from the École de Beaux Arts in Paris, as Architect and Engineer specializing in reinforced concrete constructions.

Gazón Bona is credited with having outlined the architectural-monument character of the official constructions, which resonated with Trujillo’s magnificence and megalomania.

He was, for a time, the Dictator’s private Architect and his style is apparent in all his works: Casa Vapor, Casa del Cerro, the Monument to Peace, in Santiago; the Dominican Party building, and Mercado Modelo, among others.

The designs he developed for the first housing projects promoted by the government had different styles. For example, the Ensanche Mejoramiento Social, built in 1940, and Barrio Obrero, built in 1944, with drinking water, power, and paved and unconnected streets. Another expansion model was María Auxiliadora, built in 1940.

Fifth Period (1961—1996)

Architecture developed exponentially during these 35 years, in line with economic growth and the increase of construction policies and real estate regulations that deepen the urban space transformations in Santo Domingo and in other cities.

The creation, in 1962, of Banco Nacional de la Vivienda (National Housing Bank) and other savings and loan associations, introduced credit for housing and boosted public and private investment.

Between 1961 and 1965 began the construction of private projects West of Santo Domingo, near the traffic arteries equipped with infrastructure.

After an armed uprising in April 1965, Santo Domingo’s businesses that operated for centuries in the colonial district began to move to the central arteries outlined in the urban plan of the 1930s.

The capital and other inland cities began to transform rapidly during the ensuing decades, as a result of Dr. Joaquín Balaguer’s government policy, which between 1966 and 1978, gave priority to the construction of housing developments, housing projects, government buildings, avenues, parks, and a large network of infrastructure.

This trend extended to the private sector, which built individual homes, condominiums, banks, hotels and shopping centers, such as Plaza Naco (1973) and Galerías Comerciales (1976).

The capital’s population increased to 600,000 inhabitants, a product of the rural exodus that created slums on the banks of the Isabela and Ozama Rivers, and led to the creation of a “green belt” and parks to protect the riverbanks.

The colonial district was saved from becoming part of the slums thanks to restoration works that began in 1967 in the Santa María la Menor Cathedral, Plazoleta de los Curas, the Padre Billini square, the María de Toledo square, Plaza de Colón, and Plazoleta Duarte.

Successive restorations rescued the ensemble of 16th century medieval buildings. Among the most important are:

  • Casa de Nicolás de Ovando, with an austere stone facade and five windows carved in stone, a centuries-old mahogany wooden roof, and a Gothic-Elizabethan portal, unique in America.
  • Casa del Cordón, the first stone house built in the American continent, and possibly the first with two floors. It has two patios; one of them still has the original brick arches. Its style is Gothic and Mudéjar. The interior quarters resemble Castilian palaces.
  • Casa de Tostado. Its main facade, of Gothic-Elizabethan style, is considered a fine work of masonry, with a double window divided into two equal parts by a mullion that holds two twin arches. The house has plateresque details.
  • Casa de las Gárgolas, with a facade decorated with six stone gargoyles. The facade on the first level has a side door framed in brick and two windows. Its two masonry bodies were built in different periods, one in the 16th century and the other in the 18th century.
  • Alcázar de Colón, has a Mudejar Gothic style and Renaissance details. It was built with coral rock masonry. It is the first structure of the Elizabethan Gothic style built in America. It retains 22 of the 55 rooms that it originally had. Its rectangular structure is divided into two floors and two areas joined by a central corridor and two galleries. The style of its door is Elizabethan and the floors have been reconstructed using travertine and polished marble. The windows seats are original.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Dominican architecture progressed throughout the country to meet the development needs. It is crowned in the Eastern part of the country with tourist projects such as Punta Cana, Casa de Campo, in Puerto Plata, Playa Dorada, Cabarete and Las Terrenas.

Santo Domingo continues to expand and it welcomes new architectural styles. Aluminum and glass facades foresee the trend towards the modern international style.

Some of the architects who outlined the urban landscape with construction works during this period are:

  • Pedro José Borrel built the Juan Pablo Duarte government office building, popularly known as “El huacal;” Torre Popular, the National Aquarium, and the History and Geography Museum.
  • Teófilo Carbonell Seijas built the National Theater, which opened in 1973 as part of the Plaza de la Cultura. The reduced and modified arches of its facades give it a classic look. Also, the Museo de las Américas and the Tumba Mausoleo of Admiral Cristóbal Colón, popularly known as the Faro a Colón.
  • Fred Goico built the Olympic Stadium, the City Bank, and the Las Americas Airport.
  • Rafael Calventi built the Central Bank building in 1978; the Sports Palace of Santiago; and the Monument to the War of Restoration.
  • Eduardo Selman built residential building complexes, apartment towers, condominiums and residences. He built the BHD Tower in 1986; Galerías Comerciales on Avenida 27 de Febrero, in 1976; the Teleantillas building, in 1979; and the Puerto Plata Village tourist complex in Playa Dorada, in 1988.
  • Eugenio Pérez Montás prepared an inventory of the colonial buildings, in 1963. He directed the architectural restoration of the Colonial City. He restored the Museo de las Casas Reales, the Regina Angelorum convent, the Catedral Primada, and the Alcázar de Colón. He participated in the National Zoological Park project and in Los Tres Ojos project.
  • Architect Plácido Piña constructed the building housing the Banco Hipotecario Dominicano headquarters (1979), gracefully integrating it to the city center; and the Sports Pavilion of the Country Club (1980).

With Balaguer’s departure from power, the pace of public works decreased from 1978-1986. President Antonio Guzmán’s administration (1978-1982) prioritized investment in agriculture, and current spending in accordance with the economic model of induced demand. During his administration, the following were built: the Government Office Building in Santiago, the Escuela Laboral of San Francisco de Macorís, and the reconstruction of the infrastructure that hurricane David and tropical storm Federico destroyed. His successor, Dr. Jorge Blanco, had to cope with the financial crisis and high external debt inherited from the previous administration, which lowered investment spending and forced him to enter into an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Upon his return to power in 1986, Balaguer resumed his construction policy, which he kept until 1996.

The important government works carried out during the Balaguer administrations are: the Puerto Plata international airport; the Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo, which includes museums, a library, a theater and an art gallery; the Mirador del Sur, Mirador del Norte and Mirador del Este parks; the Botanical Garden; the National Aquarium; the Olympic Center; Avenida 27 de Febrero, Avenida Prolongación Bolívar, Avenida Winston Churchill, Avenida del Puerto and Plaza Marina; the Postal Institute; the Cibao Regional Theater; Teleférico de Puerto Plata; the Jigüey-Aguacate and Valdesia dams; the Santiago Palace of Justice; the La Vega Cathedral; the Higüey Basilica; Plaza de la Salud; and numerous projects and housing developments, such as Honduras, Barrio de los Maestros, La Caoba and Puerto Isabela (Hoyo de Chulín).

Architecture’s Sixth Period (1996-2017)

This era is evidence of a modernist and minimalist design, with high-rise buildings, pre-fabricated steel structures, computerized designs that enrich the works, and high-tech technology with automated systems, power services, and security by means of communication and wireless networks.

At 515 years old, Santo Domingo is a metropolis with globalized urban and architectural elements. It has seven municipalities and a population of almost three million inhabitants.

The most dramatic changes can be observed in its most important industrial park, the area with the greatest commercial activity and whose boundaries are the John F. Kennedy Avenue to the North, the Winston Churchill Avenue to the West, Avenida Máximo Gómez to the East, and Avenida 27 de Febrero to the South.

Since 1998, the transformation of traditional horizontal spaces intensified, resulting from a municipal regulation that guided the development of the city inward, with high-rise buildings that have put pressure on the services infrastructure, despite zoning rules that had been put in place regarding density, height and permitted areas of construction.

Before the beginning of the millennium, a variety of private initiatives began to change the capital’s urban profile with apartment towers and large, medium and small size shopping centers, and this model later moved to Santiago and other inland cities.

At the same time, the tourism boom motivates large public and private investments that fill the Dominican Republic with housing and hotel projects of modern design.

The physical changes of the urban space have taken place very rapidly, with a speed that challenges planning.

Mega projects of towers and shopping centers are built on a never seen before scale. The image of modernity that stands out in Santo Domingo is provided by the most recently-built enclosed shopping centers (“malls”), such as the Acropolis Center & Citibank Tower, the Blue Mall, the Sambil, the Agora, and the Downtown Center, with international stores. The flagship malls have cultural, sports, health and recreation themes.

Minimalism becomes the new modern look used in buildings with bare planes and surfaces, glass panels, open floor plan with terrace, preferably painted white.

The contributions of the public sector have been remarkable during this period, with the construction of modern buildings such as those housing the Supreme Court of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office, the Passport and Migration Service, the School of Diplomacy, the Santo Domingo Metro, and the operational module of the Metropolitan Office of Bus Services (OMSA), initiatives undertaken during the administrations of Dr. Leonel Fernández.

Road Infrastructure

The construction and the improvement of infrastructures was one of the highlights during Leonel Fernández’s administrations, since his first administration started in August, 1996.

In his first four-year period (1996-2000), investment in infrastructure contributed to the capital’s the Corredor de la Avenida 27 de Febrero. The first stage of construction included two tunnels in the East-West direction, and the Boulevard. During the second stage, Avenida 27 de Febrero was expanded and connected to the largest viaduct (bridge) in Santo Domingo, with several ramps at the main intersections.

Also, the Las Américas tunnel, which connects the capital downtown with the Eastern sector; the Kennedy Avenue corridor; the construction of four toll plazas, at kilometer 25 of Carretera Duarte, at kilometer 12 of Autopista 6 de Noviembre, at kilometer 12 of Carretera Sánchez, and at kilometer 24 of Autopista Las Américas. Also, an overpass at the entrance of the Las Américas International Airport.

Autovía del Este was built, Autopista 30 de Mayo was improved and broadened, and Avenida Luperón was extended from Avenida Independencia to Autopista 30 de Mayo.

In 1997, the expansion of Autopista Duarte that had begun during the previous administration of Joaquín Balaguer was completed. It included Avenida Bonao and Avenida La Vega beltways, with four new lanes, 22 bridges, 9 traffic distribution devices and one toll plaza.

During his first administration, close to 104 highways were built and improved in 23 provinces and in the National District, in addition to schools, health centers and low-cost housing. In addition, substantial resources were invested for the rapid improvement of 120 bridges, housing, roads, schools and other infrastructure that had been destroyed by hurricane George in 1998.

In 2000-2004, public investment in the construction sector fell by 70 percent during the government of Engineer Hipólito Mejía, who directed spending toward agriculture and experienced banking and financial crisis that depressed the economy.

With the return of Dr. Fernández to power in 2004, the country recovered, the economy picks up and the pace of construction intensifies. Some of the road works that were undertaken during the second and third terms of President Fernández (2004-2008 and 2008-2012) are the following:

  • The Coral Highway.
  • The floating bridge over the Ozama River.
  • The Tourist East Boulevard.
  • The Duarte Corridor
  • The Santo Domingo-Samaná highway.
  • The Atlantic Tourist Boulevard.
  • Baní-San Cristóbal, the 15th of Azua-San Juan de la Maguana.
  • San Juan-Las Matas de Farfán.
  • Las Matas de Farfán-Elías Piña.
  • San Juan-Barahona.
  • The Santiago beltway, broadened to four lanes from Navarrete to Puerto Plata.
  • The San Francisco-Nagua highway.
  • Casabito-Constanza.
  • Jarabacoa-Río Constanza.
  • Navarrete-Puerto Plata.
  • Cibao-Sur, Juan Adrián, Rancho Arriba, Sabana Larga-Ocoa, Ocoa-Cruce de Ocoa.
  • Overpass at the Manoguayano-Autopista Duarte Crossing.
  • Repair of the road sections Hato-Nuevo crossing, Manoguayabo and Batey Bienvenido, and street paving of the Herrera sector neighborhoods.
  • Avenida Penetración.
  • Autopista Duarte overpass.
  • Charles De Gaulle Avenue overpass.
  • Autopista Las Américas overpass.
  • Santo Domingo-Cruce Rincon Los Molinillos.
  • Reconstruction of the Montecristi-Dajabón highway.
  • Reconstruction of the access road to the Duquesa landfill.
  • Reconstruction of the Aguas Negras-Pedernales highway.
  • Reconstruction of the Luperón-El Ranchito highway, in Puerto Plata.
  • Reconstruction of bridges over the Bajabonico River; Imbert-Luperón; San Marcos and La Isabela, in Puerto Plata.

Other works included the Pinalito dam, the Quilvio Cabrera wind farm, Ciudad de la Salud, the School of Fine Arts, the Manuel Rueda Theater, the Palavé Recreational Park in Santo Domingo Oeste; multiple aqueduct of La Ciénega-Manoguayabo, Children’s Center in Batey Bienvenido; Hermanas Mirabal School, renovation and expansion of Liceo Manoguayabo, the Juan Pablo Duarte Elementary School and repair of the Ercilia Pepín educational center.

Investment in educational centers included the La Unión, Independencia, Nuevo Amanecer, Altos de Chavón, Eugenio María de Hostos, Juana Saltitopa, Mi Bandera, Rogelio Minaya, Las Américas, and Felix María del Monte schools. In the area of ​​health, RD$400 million were invested in the repair of the San Lorenzo de Los Mina Maternity and Children Hospital.

In terms of public transit, the construction of the Santo Domingo Metro revolutionized transportation in the capital by providing thousands of its inhabitants with a means of rapid, inexpensive and safe transportation.

The first line was completed on January 30, 2009. It had 16 stations, six elevated and ten underground lines and the length of the tracks totaled 14.5 kilometers.

The second line, which had 12.8 kilometers, was completed in April, 2013, during the administration of President Danilo Medina, who has continued promoting public investment in housing and infrastructure projects that include an integrated network of highways, roads and bridges distributed across the country.

Among the road works that have had great impact are: the East road circuit, connecting Punta Cana with Santo Domingo in less than two hours, was completed. It also connects with other important tourist areas, such as La Romana and Bayahibe in just over an hour.

In addition, Boulevard Turístico del Este, from the Punta Cana airport to Uvero Alto; the Romana beltway; the San Pedro de Macorís-La Romana highway; the San Pedro de Macoris beltway; the access road to Uvero Alto and the La Romana-Guerrero-Guaymate-Cruce El Pintao highway, were also built.

Other infrastructure works built in the Greater Santo Domingo and the National District are: Paseo Marítimo 30 de Mayo, the traffic distributor of Avenida Ecológica, three Comprehensive Care Centers for the Disabled (in Santo Domingo Oeste, in Santiago and in San Juan de la Maguana), the Uvero Alto-Miches highway, the Miches-El Seibo highway, the Baní-Azua highway, the Santo Domingo Beltway Section I, the Diabetes and Nutrition Hospital, the Culture building and the commercial Plaza in San Juan de la Maguana.

In addition, the Mirabal Sisters Multiple Aqueduct and the Villa Trina Multiple Aqueduct were completed, and the San José de las Matas Aqueduct was upgraded; the road that connects the Piedra Blanca-Juan Adrián-Rancho Arriba section, which shortens distances between the Cibao and the Sur regions; the widening of the La Caleta-Boca Chica section of the Las Américas highway; the Villa Mella-La Victoria highway, and the Miches-Sabana de la Mar highway, which is part of the Eastern Road Circuit.

The Juan Bosch City, a place of social interest in the Eastern sector of Santo Domingo, is already in its final stage. Built with public and private investment, it will provide 25,000 low-cost housing with power and water services, under the scope of benefits offered by the trust law.

Also, the La Nueva Barquita project, which relocated more than 5,500 residents living in areas of high risk of flooding, has been of great social importance. At the same time, it activated a social and educational insertion plan for a previously excluded sector of the population.

This project provided for the inclusion of more than 30 hectares of a non-developable area into to the green belt.

In this 21-year period architecture flourishes energized by public and private construction works, and the large investments in the tourism sector. As never before, economic growth produces an impressive real estate boom that multiplies the apartment buildings, the summer houses, the commercial squares and the business premises throughout the country.


  • Lo Dominicano/All Things Dominican, a publication of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD), 2016
  • Guía Emocional de la Ciudad Romántica, Joaquín Balaguer, 1992 edition.
  • leonelferná >obras.
  • President Danilo Medina’s accountability report.
  • https:/
  • pdf Santo Domingo 2010: El estado de la arquitectura contemporánea-Archivos de Arquitectura Antillana.
  • dominicana actual.
  • Arquitectura Antilla del siglo XX
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