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What's antiquated in the US may not be so in Latin America

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Some of you may be familiar with my series of articles on antiquated structural systems in the STRUCTURE Magazine. The same articles are being “reprinted” online at Architecture Week (


I received a very interesting response to article #4 on prefabricated clay and masonry block framing systems from Julio Guillén that I thought would be worthwhile sharing with the List.


Here it is minus the embedded images that I know can’t be sent to the List Server:



I read your interesting article, published in Architecture Week. These systems are still in use in Spain, Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries.


As an architect in Cuba in 1987-1997 I was in charge of building a factory for the production of precast pre-tensioned beams (viguetas – small beams) for one of these structural systems. The factory included also a facility to produce the concrete block infill tiles. They are called bovedillas in Spanish, due to the fact that structurally they act as small vaults - bovedas. The equipment had been bought in Spain (Cataluña) by the Cuban Ministry of Construction Materials, for which I was working as an employee. (There is no private practice of architecture in Cuba). Once the factory was finished, we started using it in the construction of dwellings and small commercial/office buildings.

In Spain the system is very popular and used for residential and light commercial work, with spans of up to 21 feet, and cantilevered up to 9 feet. The Spanish Normas Basicas de Edificacion of that time used to have a lot of detail about this type of construction.


As for the older types of systems, working in Cuba in restoring older buildings gave us a lot of experience on them too. They were very popular from the 1910’s to the 1930’s, when cast in place concrete replace this kind of systems. Still in the 1950’s a Cuban architect re-introduced a similar type of construction system, with precast concrete beams and clay tile arched units. This system was used until the late 60’s with the trade name PEPSA.

In Mexico several systems of this type are used. You can see an example in (Mexico, with infill tiles made of polystirene), (Peru), etc.

I hop this e-mail would be of interest to you. If you are interested in some more details about this subject, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Julio Guillén 


Project Manager


Architecture and Urban Design

AA #26001093

8323 NW 12th Street, Suite 106, Doral, FL 33126

Ph.: 305.593.9959 (W) - 305.898.6385 (M)

Fax: (305) 593-9855



D. Matthew Stuart, P.E., S.E., F.ASCE, SECB

Senior Project Manager

Structural Department


Engineers and Consultants - CMX

200 Route 9

Manalapan, NJ 07726

732-577-9000 (Ext. 308)

908-309-8657 (Cell)

732-298-9441 (Fax)