San José’s Famous Plaza de la Cultura to Get a Face Lift

A couple of years ago I published an article about san José’s La Plaza de la Cultura (see below). In it I go into to the history and and description of this famous downtown landmark.

In March of 2016 it was announced that this famous esplanade will virtually be rebuilt. It is estimated the plaza will be closed to the public until the middle of November. However, in Costa Rica the problem is that you never know in November of what year. All joking aside the work should be finished be the end of 2016 at the latest.

plaza de la cultura

Perhaps the most important part of the remodeling will be the removal of the concrete pavers which have proved to be porous and caused water to seep into the museum below. The water has caused extensive damage which has to be stopped. The new surface of the plaza will have 400 square meters porcelain stoneware tiles. A series of new ramps will also be built to make the plaza more accessible for the handicapped.

The large fountain on the northwest corner will be repaired so that it finally works correctly without leakage. Adults and children will actually be able to walk among the fountain’s columns of water. At night the fountains 52 spouts will be illuminated to add to its beauty.

The project will cost around $3 million dollars and will be financed by the Country’s Central bank.

Below is my original blog about the history of this famous landmark.

It is impossible to miss La Plaza de la Cultura if you’re walking along San José’s Avenida Central Pedestrian Mall. It is situated in front of the Grand Hotel and on the north side of the National Theater. The Plaza is a great place for people watching. Photographers with polaroid cameras, street performers and others selling small bags of peanuts for feeding the pigeons all earn a living there. The small square has benches, a fountain and a few shade trees. It is often the scene of celebrations, demonstrations, performance and is visited by thousands ticos with their families and tourists every day.

At the end of the 1970s San José’s Central Park was where buses stopped and mainly frequented by shoeshine boys and street vendors selling lottery tickets. The park had really had lost its primary function as a place where the locals congregated to socialize. So, three ambitious and daring Costa Rican architects (Jorge Bertheau, Jorge Borbón and Edgar Vargas) decided to design a new public space where people could gather and also build a museum to honor the legacy of Costa Rica’s pre-colombian indigenous culture. Thus, the concept of la Plaza de la Culltura was born.Construction began in 1977 and the plaza was officially inaugurated on February 26, 1982. While it was being built the critics jokingly referred to the large hole at the construction site as the “hueco de la cultura” or “hole of the culture.” Well, the people behind the project had the last laugh. The gold museum (Museo de Oro Precolombino).with its 4,000 plus artifacts opened on September 15, 1985 and numismatic exhibition was inaugurated in 1990. The 45 by 80 meter plaza serves as the roof for the museum below. In 1996-7 there were some repairs done to the plaza because of water seepage from the fountain. On September 14, 2002 the museum added a new exhibit using multimedia techniques.

The Plaza de la Cultura is considered one of the city’s architectural gems and engineering feat according to architect and researcher Andrés Fernández who has just published a book on the subject in Spanish, Punto y Contrapunto – La Plaza de la Cultura.

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