Puerto Rican Architect Francisco Porrata-Doria

Architects have the privilege of leaving a lasting legacy by means of the buildings they design, and over the decades where villages have become towns, and towns have grown into cities, some architects have stood out from the crowd for their innovative designs. In Puerto Rico, Francisco Porrata-Doria was a pioneer of modern architecture, and was influential in the development of what came to be known as “Ponce Monumental Architecture”. Examples of his work include Teatro Fox Delicias, Banco de Ponce, Ponce Cathedral, Casa Fernando Luis Toro, and Banco Crédito y Ahorro Ponceño.

Born in Ponce on 4 May 1890, Francisco Luis Porrata-Doria Gutierre de Pando was the son of Luis Porrata-Doria and Ana Gutierre de Pando. His father served as the mayor of Ponce in 1898 and Porrata-Doria was raised in the city, completing his high school education in 1909. After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1912, he obtained a certificate in architecture from Columbia University before returning to Puerto Rico. From 1912 to 1916, Porrata-Doria was employed as the director of Public Works for Ponce Municipality.

Porrata-Doria went into private practice as an engineer and architect in the city of Ponce between 1916 and 1935. In addition to designing numerous homes for prominent people in Ponce, he designed fifteen churches in total, some of which are found in the towns of Maunabo, Barranquitas, Jayuya, Peñuelas, Patillas and Villalba. In 1936 he was appointed as project engineer for the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, while at the same time acting as consulting engineer for the city of Ponce. During this time he was involved in the design and rebuilding of Teatro La Perla which had been badly damaged in the historic 1918 earthquake, also referred to as the San Fermín earthquake, one of the worst natural disasters to have struck Puerto Rico. Other projects he worked on at this time included the Ponce Public Library, and the José Celso Barbosa and Abraham Lincoln elementary schools. Between 1942 and 1956, Porrata-Doria was employed as the official architect for the Pluvial Fountains Authority’s engineering division.

Back in private practice in 1966, Porrata-Doria designed a number of luxurious homes, two churches and the building now occupied by the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture across from Parque de Bombas on Plaza Las Delicias. Francisco Luis Porrata-Doria passed away in Ponce at the age of 81 on 2 September 1971. One of the three plazas at the Tricentennial Park is named in his honor and dozens of buildings stand as a tribute to his architectural skill and vision.