History of Plaza de la Cultura includes little-known facts

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
New museum exhibit includes many photos and plans

Just 30 years ago, the Plaza de la Cultura between Avenida Central and Avenida Segunda did not exist, and the heart of the city was around Parque Central.

The area was inaugurated by President Rodrigo Carazo Odio Feb. 26, 1982. Construction was a feat that overcame many difficulties and consisted of 2,000 workdays and resulted in a bill of 120 million colons, about $3 million then. The accomplishment gave birth to current Costa Rican culture.

“Plaza de la Cultura is born today,” said Guido Sáenz González, an artist who later served as culture minister, on the day. “It will transform not only the face of the city but also our republic and our citizens from within it will make us better. Witnessing this process should move us.”

Here are seven other little-know facts or “secrets,” about the admired architectural work revealed Wednesday by Curator Andres Fernandez, during a promotion of a new museum exhibit.

1. The initial plan for the project included not just the museums but a convention center, auditorium for 700 persons, auxiliary galleries, art exhibition halls, conference rooms, handicraft stores, economics library, Teatro Nacional annex and a symphony rehearsal room.

The Carazo Odio administration began to oppose the project and wanted to turn the area into a park. In 1978, the project was limited to what it is now.

2. The Museos del Banco Central, which is the three-story structure below the plaza, was inspired by the National Museum of Anthropology in México and the Columbian Gold museum.

3. The plaza was proposed as a way to support the growing population of residents and tourists in the Central Valley. People are meant to be the main attraction of the plaza. This is why a fountain was built and spaces were left for the many stores and restaurants.

4. The interior finishes include concrete, marble from Nicoya, glass partitions, stainless steel on pillars and solid cenizaro wood on the handrails and exhibition hall floors.

5. The Museos del Banco Central is the most secure building in San José. Architects had to find a way to construct a building that could withstand earthquakes. What they came up with was a single piece structure made with excavation slopes that is so secure, a person can’t feel earthquakes when inside, said Fernandez.

6. The half block located on the north side of Teatro Nacional where the plaza now sits was a commercial area. Everything had to be demolished to make room for the construction.

7. During the excavation stage, the hole workers were digging was flooded due to the constant rain. What resulted was a 3-foot-deep swimming pool of which children took advantage. It later was dubbed the “Culture hole.” Finally the water was pumped, and work continued.

Overall, the structure that is the plaza and bank museums is an intelligent work and a pride for Costa Rica, said Fernández.

Visitors can learn more about the plaza in a new exhibit at the museum entitled Exhibición Punto y Contrapunto: 30 aniversario de la Plaza de la Cultura. It opens today.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.