Comsultants: Juan Ayguabibas, Fernando Cortés, Juan Requena, Jorge Torres, Óscar Marty
Comtractor: Venegas Construction Corp
Text description provided by the architects. El Blok is a boutique hotel located in Esperanza, a quiet town on the south side of the island of Vieques, located 13km off the east coast of Puerto Rico. The hotel is situated on a small commercial lot along Esperanza’s waterfront. The compact form of the hotel houses a program of 23 guest rooms, a restaurant, a roof terrace with Jacuzzi, parking and service areas.
Conceptually the hotel is conceived as a block of coral removed from the sea; inspired by the form, density and porosity of the coral reefs located just off shore. The exterior of the hotel is made of glass fiber reinforced concrete (GfRC) panels; whose design is derived from corals. These panels act as a continuous screen that filters natural light and fresh air into the balconies of the guest rooms. The patterns of natural light created by these panels and other building apertures act as perpetually changing ornamentation within the hotel. Some of the exterior panels open to allow for uninterrupted views of the exterior. The curvilinear forms of El Blok also make reference to the sinuous line of the Caribbean shore line and the adjacent road.
An exposed concrete stair enters the hotel unfolding like a fan that brings you up to the second floor, which is defined by a ample open terrace where the hotel restaurant is located. This space is at once both open and closed, acting as a great threshold between the exterior world and the interior world of the hotel. The guest rooms are on the subsequent two floors and are organized radially around a center oval patio that references the Caribbean architectural vernacular. The radial organization also serves to optimize access to the guest rooms and reduce travel distance. The guest rooms recreate the organic and permeable world of the hotel within the microcosm of each room. The hotel culminates in a roof terrace with a bioluminescent pre-fabricated jacuzzi and prefabricated light/ventilation chimneys that also serve to house service pipes and establish a vertical counterpoint on the horizon.
The principal structure is reinforced concrete, principally exposed, offering a diverse experience in each space. The floor is covered principally in hydraulic concrete tiles designed specifically for the hotel using a pattern inspired by the building’s floor plan and using the colors of the Caribbean basin. The woodwork is done largely using local woods.
El Blok aims to achieve LEED Gold certification. The design and compact organization help to minimize the physical and ecological footprint and the building makes maximum use of natural light and ventilation. The roof and wall envelopes are thermally very efficient. Additionally the roof deck collects rainwater for reuse.