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Iconic Places

As any other city, the Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, with over 70 hectares, has been creating, along its 50 years, characteristic buildings and places which history has turned into points of reference within the campus.These iconic sites are described below.

  • The building of the School of Humanities, currently called Enrique Macaya Lahmann Building, was inaugurated on March 4, 1957, as the emerging Central School of Science and Letters, which included the School of Humanities. The inaugural ceremony was held in front of the current building, in the area called Pretil, with the attendance of hundreds of students, professors, academic chairs, and university authorities, as well as members of the Diplomatic Corpses and of the Powers of the Republic. The President of the University at the time, Lic. Rodrigo Facio, and the first dean of the School and first Director of the Department of General Studies, Prof. Jose Joaquin Trejos, addressed the audience; while Monsignor Ruben Odio, Archbishop of San Jose, blessed the building.

    The inauguration is memorable for the Universidad de Costa Rica because it represents the “rebirth”, the “re-foundation,” and the “revolution” of the Institution in materializing the convergence of the two big university projects that have made the University essentially humanistic, public and autonomous: the project for the creation of the Ciudad Universitaria and the transcendental 1957 University Reform Plan, thanks to which, the Institution was consolidated as a promoter of democracy as the ideal means to work in teaching, research, social action, learning, meditation, artistic creation, and dissemination of knowledge.

    Since its foundation in 1957, the School of Humanities has shaped the feelings and actions of this University and of the country. These feelings and actions are based on and promote fundamental values, such as tolerance, freedom, responsibility, solidarity, and excellence that characterize the proposal of integral and solidary humanism. According to data from the University Registrar Office, that year, 1,048 students enrolled in the different freshmen subjects; out of those, 787 were new students that had to take the subjects in Humanities.  Currently, the School of Humanities receives over 7.900 new students in its classrooms each year.

    In 1984, the School of Humanities rendered tribute to the honorable Costa Rican thinker Enrique Macaya Lahmann by naming the building after him, two years after his death.  Macaya Lahmann was one of the main players in the 1956 University Reform, which gave life to the humanistic nature of the University of Costa Rica. Additionally, he was secretary general of the University in 1944, member of the Academia Costarricense de la Lengua and of the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica de Madrid. He was a member of the UNESCO Executive Committee and Ambassador of Costa Rica in Spain in 1966 and 1967.

    Since the building of the School of Humanities is the one that receives all new students and due to its location close to one of the entrances to the university campus, the place is considered one of the preferred gathering places by the newly arrived students.  For over a decade, a ceramic mural with a multi-color sunflower, made by artist Eduardo Torijano Chacon, has been the building symbol, representing the beginning of the journey through the university and one of the most iconic ways of looking at the light, as the university code of arms states Lucem Aspicio, under the sunflower that points to the horizon.

  • As the University of Costa Rica developed, small isolated book collections emerged as a result of its academic activity. In August 1946, the first University of Costa Rica Library was officially inaugurated, gathering the bibliographic collections of the schools of Pharmacy, Philosophy and Letters, Engineering, Law, Science and Arts.

    It started as a small room with a capacity for about 30 readers located in the old Central Building of the University in Barrio Gonzalez Lahmann in downtown San Jose.  It would only lend books to be read in the room and had an attendance of over 400 readers per year.  Its first director was Professor Alberto Bolaños, an elementary and high-school teacher. 

    In 1956, the Library was moved to a small temporary wooden building located in the current campus of the Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio in San Pedro, Montes de Oca. In 1970, the current building of the Carlos Monge Alfaro Library (named after the former President of the University) was inaugurated thanks to the efforts and work of a committee constituted by its director and scholars, teachers, and citizens who played an important role in the national life at the time.

    With the opening of this Library, better and new library services to support the teaching and research activities of the university community were added. Currently, the library holds bibliographic materials on Agronomy, Arts, Biology, Botanic, Science, Traditions and Folklore, Sports, Education, Philosophy, History and Geography, Language and Linguistics, Literature, General Works, Politics, Psychology, Chemistry, Religion, Sociology, Zoology.

    Among other services, the library offers access to referential databases and complete text data, Internet Access, listings of the latest titles of magazines and books, user training, recordings, Braille printing, location of printed and digital documents, guidance to the user to locate and use bibliographical resources. It also prepares references and bibliographical entries and lends computer equipment with accessible software, bibliographical materials printed in braille, meeting rooms, an auditorium, audio-visual equipment, and maps. It organizes inter-library loans and provides projection and audition services of visual and audio materials and virtual reference services.

    The Carlos Monge Library is part of the Accessible Libraries for All Program of the Library, Documentation, and Information System (SIBDI) and the Center for Assistance and Services to Disabled Students (CASED) that provide services and information resources to people with disabilities who are part of the university community.  Among other aspects, to achieve this purpose, the library has built access ramps, installed specialized information equipment and software, and adapted its furniture and the restrooms to the needs of this group of people.

    The Carlos Monge Alfaro Library was refurbished in the 90s, after its upper floors were severely damaged during the 1991 Limon earthquake. Todays, it is still an important gathering point for students, especially at the end of each period, when it opens its doors from Monday to Sunday to provide a better service.  Those who have been part of the student community in this House of Studies may cherish memories of long hours of study and endless days in the group-work rooms during their years in the university.

  • Plaza El Pretil

    The Plaza El Pretil is located in the open area in front of the building of the School of Humanities.

    Since 1957, year when the School was founded, this square has been a site of social importance and a place to express the most diverse cultural and political manifestations of the institution.

    In El Pretil, people develop social relationships, rest, have a snack or eat lunch, look for company, do some work, protest, take the sun, sleep and get distracted during the idle hours of their school day.

    El Pretil has been the starting point of demonstrations where the university community has participated, such as the demonstration against ALCOA in the 70s, the many demonstrations to defend the University budget, the demonstrations against the so-called ICE Combo, and more recently, the demonstrations against the FTA (Free Trade Agreement with the United States).  

    In August 2007, a solemn activity inaugurated the recently remodeled Plaza El Pretil, which commemorated the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the School of Humanities, with the attendance of university authorities, professors, students, and special guests.  The renewed Pretil offers an architectural and artistic design that compiles the historical significance of this site and presents new elements like sculptures, a fountain, access ramps for disabled people, and a stage for artistic, social and cultural activities.

    Additionally, to the south of the building of the School of Humanities, there is the 50th Anniversary Plaza, where a wall holds the large iconic sunflower mural by artist Eduardo Torijano Chacon.  This icon of the University “expresses the integration of knowledge and wisdom, unity in diversity, historical processes, the construction of thought, the domain of language, science and letters, technology and arts,” as stated by the President of the Institution, Dr. Yamileth Gonzalez Garcia (2002-2010).

  • Cupid and Swan Fountain

    The historical fountain currently located in front of the building of the Carlos Monge Alfaro Library in the Rodrigo Facio Campus of the University of Costa Rica is one of the most popular places in the Campus.

    The Central Park fountain – as it is known – was brought to the country in the 19th Century as part of the first potable water system of San Jose built during the second administration of Dr. Jose Maria Castro Madriz (1866-1868).

    To celebrate the construction of the sewer system, Mexican engineer Angel Miguel Velasquez was commissioned by the Municipality of San Jose to travel to England and buy an ornamental fountain that would adorn the Main Plaza (currently Central Park).  At that time, Velasquez bought one of the six Cupid and Swan fountains that exist in the world, a genuine copy of the famous Coalbrookdale & Co fountain, designed by sculptor John Bell. The other copies of Cupid and Swan are found in London, Australia, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

    During the forties, the fountain was removed from the Central Park due to several remodeling works, and it was placed in front of the Paraninfo of the Universidad de Costa Rica in Barrio Gonzalez Lahmann, where it remained until the construction of the Court buildings began.

    It was later transferred to the Ciudad Universitaria in San Pedro, Montes de Oca, in the early seventies and placed in the internal yard of the School of Agronomy, where it remained for several years under the care of the institution.

    Finally, upon prior restoration and functionality fixes, in February 1992 it was transferred to its final place in front of the Carlos Monge Alfaro Library.

    In 1987, this fountain was declared historical and national artistic patrimony.

    In 2003, the historical fountain was restored once again.

  • Plaza 24 de abril

    The Plaza 24 de abril, located in front of the School of Social Sciences, in the Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio is a symbolic place by excellence of the celebration of the University Week, which is celebrated every year in the month of April with a series of cultural, artistic, and sports activities and which symbolizes the memories of the historical struggles undertaken by student movements.

    The celebration took a special turn after the struggle by the student movements against the enterprise Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) which intended to exploit the bauxite deposits in San Isidro del General.  The very broad social movement of university and high school students, intellectuals, and youngsters with great social concerns, communities, and workers generated a demonstration that took several hours, until sundown on April 24, 1970, when the contract with ALCOA was approved.

    The strike continued for one more week, and finally, the project was filed, setting a precedent of the power and capacity of the student movements in the national politics.  This is remembered as one of the largest demonstrations led by students in the history of the country.  Plaza 24 de abril is currently an iconic place where the university community gathers in artistic, cultural, and sports activities, art-craft fairs and sales of organic products, as well as to enjoy entertainment and resting moments.

  • The Luis Demetrio Tinoco Library was inaugurated on June 28, 1985, as the Library for Economic Sciences and Engineering. Today, it honors the name of the first interim president of the Universidad de Costa Rica, Lic. Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro.

    The library contains bibliographic material about Economic Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Information Technology, Physics, Mathematics and Geology, and hosts the special collections of graduation theses, research projects, periodical publications, and materials in electronic format.  In addition, it has audio-visual rooms and equipment that can be used by university members.

    Among other services, it provides access to referential and complete text databases, Internet access, assistance in the elaboration of audio-visual materials, digitalization of documents, listings of the latest titles of magazines and books, user training, Braille printouts, location of printed and digital documents, guidance for the user to locate and use bibliographical resources, as well as the elaboration of references and bibliographical entries, loan of computer equipment with accessible software and loan of bibliographical materials printed in Braille.

    The Luis Demetrio Tinoco Library is part of the Accessible Libraries to All Program of the Library, Documentation and Information System (SIBDI) and the Center for Assistance and Services to Students with Disabilities (CASED) that provides services and information resources to the members of the university community with disabilities. To achieve this purpose, it has built access ramps, installed specialized information equipment and programs, and adapted its furniture and the restrooms.

    Its facilities host the Office of the Vice Presidency of Research and the Graduate College. It is located 200 meters east from the School of Law.

  • The current building of the School of Law was inaugurated in 1977.  It is located in the western side of the Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, next to the main entrance to the campus, with access for vehicles and pedestrians. Its infrastructure has a large mural on the western wall that honors the University Community Outreach Program (TCU).

    Although the building was built in the late 70s, the School of Law dates from many years before. In 1814, the Town Hall of San Jose created the House of Education, the first educational center of Costa Rica.  One year later, it was renamed Casa de Enseñanza Santo Tomas.  In 1824, the first Law courses where included in the academic plan and, in 1830, the first Major in Law (Baccalaureate in Law) was created in Costa Rica.

    The Casa de Enseñanza Santo Tomas became the University of Santo Tomas in 1843 when it was inaugurated by Dr. Jose Maria Castro Madriz.  After 45 years of operation, in 1888, a decree to close the university for political, economic, and academic reasons was signed. This same decree created the higher schools of Law and Notaries, Medicine, and Engineering.

    Since then, higher education in the country was in the hands of the professional schools that worked under the direction of their corresponding professional associations. By 1926, the construction of the new School of Law started in Barrio Gonzalez Lahmann; this activity set the beginning of the reopening of the University. 

    During the 40s, at a time of reforms in Costa Rica, Luis Demetrio Tinoco became one of the main promoters of the creation of the Universidad de Costa Rica.  Thus, under the administration of Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia, through Law No. 362, the UCR was officially created, and it emerged as an institution for higher education and culture.

    On March 7, 1941, (Saint Thomas Day), the University opened its doors in Barrio Gonzalez Lahmann with over 700 students, of which 155 were enrolled in the School of Law.

    In 1956, the project to build a university campus in San Pedro de Montes de Oca started.  The School of Laws moved, in 1960, to what is currently the building of the School of Economic Sciences, where it remained until 1977, when the current six-story building was inaugurated.  The building was refurbished in the 90s, when the central stairs and a plaza for the entertainment of the lawyers-to-be were built.

    Currently, since it is located at the borderline of the campus, the building of the School of Law is a reference point for the entrance of vehicle into the campus.


  • Instituto Confucio Building

    The building that currently hosts the Confucius Institute of the University of Costa Rica entered into operation in March 2010, after a remodeling period. It is located next to the School of Architecture in the Rodrigo Facio Campus.

    The Institute emerged from an agreement between the UCR and the Headquarters of the Confucius Institutes, signed in November 2008 by representatives of both parties. The Headquarters were created under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China to promote the learning of Chinese and the dissemination of the Chinese culture and knowledge worldwide.

    This building is one of the few wooden constructions that are still preserved in the University.  It hosted the School of Nursing before it was transferred to the new facilities in the Ciudad de la Investigación.  Additionally, it had hosted the offices and plenary of the University Council and the facilities of the Presidency of the University, where former university presidents, like Rodrigo Facio, Carlos Monge, Eugenio Rodriguez, and Claudio Gutiérrez, among others, made important decisions that set the future of the Institution.  

  • The building of the School of Architecture is located next to the facilities of the UCR TV Station and the Semanario Universidad newspaper.

    From the 70s to the end of the 20th Century, several new buildings were added to the campus representing the techniques and forms of expression used at the time.  The new building of the School of Architecture stands out among many others; it used the structural basis of the old building of Agronomy that dates from 1926.

    Architect Edgar Brenes used the roofing structure to unify two buildings: the old Agronomy building and the new prefabricated, four-story building of the School of Architecture.

    A metallic frame diagonal to the axes of both buildings was used as the guiding structure of the slabs, which descended gradually and perpendicular to the façade of the new building, to close it in part, or over the terraces of the different stories of the old building.

    Although modernity came to this structure, if you look at it carefully and from a distance, you can appreciate the old construction that originated this building located very close to the southern entrance of the campus, and where the classes are interrupted, sometimes, by the majestic sound of the urban train that has been a life-long neighbor.

  • The Planetarium is a special cinema that has a circular room with a semi-spherical dome-like screen where the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies are projected. Thanks to a simulation projector located in the center of the room, spectators enjoy a show of beauty and realism.  These and other features make the movies projected have an enveloping effect which turning them into a whole new sensory experience.

    In 2002, the government of Japan donated to the University of Costa Rica all of the equipment for a planetary to be installed in a building financed by the University.  The construction work started in 2004 and finished in 2005.

    The Planetarium located in the Ciudad de Investigación of the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) is open to the public interested in topics related to astronomy. In the dry-season afternoons and evenings, it is common to see groups of children, youngsters and adults that, together with the physicists of the UCR, look at the stars during the famous “telescope days.”

    Use this link for further information about presentations, courses, and telescope days.

  • The University of Costa Rica makes available to the university community and its surrounding neighborhoods of Montes de Oca and Goicoechea a sports complex that has green areas and optimal facilities to practice different sports like swimming, running, volleyball, basketball, tennis and softball. This complex also hosts the iconic Estadio Ecológico, home of the Soccer Team of the University of Costa Rica. The building of the School of Physical Education is also located inside the sports complex.

    The Estadio Ecológico has a natural grass field and a capacity for 1,080 fans. It has a synthetic running ring that is open for the country’s high performance athletes to train. The place is surrounded by vegetation and trees whose shade protects fans from the sun during matches.  The infrastructure responds to the development of nature harmonization concepts, while it promotes a space for environmental education, a healthy and clean environment, and a place for family recreation.

    In order to facilitate access to the facilities, the Institution offers an internal bus service that moves users from the Rodrigo Facio Campus to the Sports Facilities – going through the Ciudad de la Investigación – and vice versa.

  • Saprissa Building

    The old Saprissa building is located in front of the Carlos Monge Library, outside the Rodrigo Facio Campus, next to the Calle de la Amargura. It constitutes an iconic place that has been part of the University of Costa Rica since the late 70s, after the Saprissa Textile Factory closed.

    It is now the house of the Montes de Oca Theater, the College Bookstore, the Sports, Recreational, and Artistic Programs, the University Gym, and the Office of General Services.

    It also has an ATM from Banco Popular and is surrounded by bus stops for the routes of Tibás, Guadalupe, Moravia and Coronado, and public transportation stops for lines like Barrio Escalante and Periférica.

    The building is covered by graffiti in most of its external walls, which characterize it as an area of tolerance and artistic manifestation of the youngsters in the community and the Institution.  


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