Nearly 16 years after founding Costa Rica’s trailblazing architecture school, Universidad del Diseño (UniDis), Alvaro Rojas, AIA, has decided to close it. Financial considerations and competition from a growing number of for-profit schools drove the decision, says Rojas. “For the past six or seven years, the majority of our teaching staff has worked pro-bono,” explains Rojas, and he has subsidized the school’s operations out of his own financial resources.
Although it graduated only 71 students since it opened in 1993, UniDis changed the profile of architecture in Costa Rica and served as an important platform for the teaching of green design. In 1993, only two other schools offered degree programs in architecture, the public Universidad de Costa Rica (UCA) and the private Universidad Autonoma de Centroamerica (UACA). Frustrated with the quality of architectural education in the country, Rojas, a Costa Rica native who had trained and then taught at City College in New York, opened UniDis to provide more in-depth training in smaller classes with greater interaction between students and professors. “UniDis was an experimental school with a simple objective,” states Rojas, “prepare top-notch architects for Costa Rica and the world.” To do this, though, the school required students to go through a longer and more expensive program than its competitors.