San Francisco Ruins, Santo Domingo

Working in collaboration with Inconserca and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, DSDHA’s shortlisted Master Plan proposal for Santo Domingo’s San Francisco Ruins, in the Dominican Republic, seeks to re-establish this historically and culturally significant site as a centre of civic activity and a generator of public life. 

The Master Plan aims to re-establish and reinforce the connections between the site and the rest of the city, improving public access and the sequence of experience from one space to the next, culminating in the regeneration of the Ruins’ enclosure itself, where open and public spaces connect new cultural programs and an archaeological park, offering access the interior and the fabric of the Ruins.  

The vision hopes to turn the site from a disconnected, degraded, and publicly disengaged area into a place of harmony and contemplation, evoking the history of the Franciscan covent, whilst providing the background for more intensive cultural activities, where any passersby can come to enjoy and participate in the cultural life of the city. 

The historic entrances to the old church and covent are re-activated as key points of access into the site. The centrally located Archaeological Park and the historic Cloister become the focal point of public circulation and distribution, from where a range of new cultural programmes are reached, including a meeting space, a temporary exhibition hall, a large event room, and a half-buried theatre, amongst other supporting public and logistic facilities. 

The Park will reveal the ongoing excavations of the ruins, as well as offering new landscapes of walkways, trees and greenery. This is a key open and publicly accessible space, which seeks to connect the site as a whole with the fabric of the historic city, reinforcing a sense of local ownership and identity, as well as promoting education. 

The largest event space is located inside the historic old church, as a light and materially different insertion, establishing a clear separation with the existing building fabrics of the Ruins, which will be carefully recovered and restored with sustainable modern materials and techniques. The same restoration strategy is also envisioned for the Chapel of the Third Order, which is proposed to be used as an exhibition space, or as a secondary event room. 

A proposed new theatre is to be located as a separate volume across the archaeological park, whilst remain connected to the other buildings via a covered walkway. The footprint and height of the building is a gentle reminder of the historic massing that occupied this particular location. As a half buried volume, the theatre is accessed from the top at the rear of the seating, where supporting rooms offer flexibility of use from the ground level, allowing visual permeability from the park environment, as well as reducing the impact of the building’s presence.
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