convento de las carmelitas, thomas s. marvel

Designed in 1976 by Thomas S. Marvel, the Carmelite Sisters’ Convent in Trujillo Alto is often considered one of the best examples of early brutalism in Puerto Rico. It is troubling how closely it was modeled to resemble Le Corbusier’s convent of La Tourette. However, its proportions lack the mathematical correctness and spatial aspirations of the French masterpiece.

In truth, the similarities lie only within the use itself, the materials employed and its siting. The Convento de las Carmelitas rests on top of a small hill in a somewhat pastoral setting. Exposed concrete or “betón brut” was the main construction material employed.

There is no way to access the main cloister unless one becomes a Carmelite Sister (or a robber, as one of the sisters told us). The only spaces that welcome visitors are the refractory and the chapel which can be accessed through an entrance courtyard. Here’s a view of that space looking towards the main gate, the belfry and the chapel’s entrance. I have also included an interior photograph of the chapel to illustrate the lack of proportions and poor spatial qualities.

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