Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:
Prime, Betty L. (2011). Exterior Architectural Finishes in Puerto Rico: The Painting Traditions of Guayama's Vernacular Architecture. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


The vernacular architecture of Puerto Rico has been previously investigated, but research has yet to address the symbolic and aesthetic expression of that form through formal paint analysis. Guayama’s urban houses are distinctive through their style, color and materials. Color plays a fundamental role in domestic architectural expression, but it is often overlooked by the preservation field. To date, there has been limited scientific research completed to record the materials and palette used in Caribbean architectural painting. As a general rule buildings are frequently studied as isolated entities, but rarely as a group, addressing color schemes and paint palettes across a building typology or locale.

This thesis attempts to generate a historically derived exterior color palette by examining paint samples from a group of representative houses to gain an understanding of the finishes employed in Pan-Caribbean domestic architecture. The research utilizes: 1) historical research and documentation of representative structures, 2) stratigraphic analysis of paint finishes, 3) comparative analysis of decorative trends, and 4) visual tools for understanding the buildings original finishes. The historic paint research conducted for this thesis focused on the front elevations or balcones (porches) of vernacular creole houses. Historically paint and decorative motifs are concentrated on the façade of a house making it the most vibrant and diverse feature.



Date Posted: 04 May 2012