The Buenaventura Corrales School was inaugurated in 1886, becoming the first metal building in Central America. It is located in San José, Costa Rica and is a World Heritage Site.

The school was built to provide education for the children of Costa Rica’s elite. It is named after Buenaventura Corrales, a well-known educator who had contributed significantly to Costa Rica’s education system.


In the 1890’s, Costa Rica was in the midst of the liberal period of its republican history. This school began to attach great importance to public education and, in particular, to the creation of infrastructures to house it and project it into the future. This work’s initiative is due to the educator Buenaventura Corrales, elected president of the Board of Education who, under Don Rafael Iglesias presidency, proposed the creation of a building that would bring together the ‘Escuelas Graduadas’, an innovative educational system for the time that distributed students according to age and knowledge in three grades (elementary, middle and higher). The program was based on a school for boys and a school for girls. It is currently located in the city’s heart of San José, in front of Parque Morazán.

The project was entrusted in 1890 to the Belgian architect Charles Thirion from 1838 to 1920, who was the author, among other works, of the Bomboniere Theater (1891).

In 1886, it became the first metal building in Central America. It originally housed two schools, one for girls and one for boys, under the name of Escuelas Graduadas de San José. However its educational destiny has been exercised since its beginnings until today, when three schools operate in the Metal Building, merged under the name of Escuela Buenaventura Corrales, in honor of its promoter.

It was declared “Relic of National Historical and Architectural Interest” of Costa Rica in 1980. Finally, it was declared a World Heritage Site, by Ministerial Decree n.10-2008, on November 25, 2008. This decree states that “the Ministry recognizes that this building has historical value for its role in the education of future generations of Costa Ricans”.

Buenaventura Corrales School – photo: crhoy


The Buenaventura Corrales school has a very symmetrical composition, with three volumes on its main façade and responds to the canons of the neoclassical trend, common at that time in Latin America.

The central volume coincides with the building for the assembly hall. This is a 2-storey building of just over 2400m2, which is organized around two courtyards separated by a central body. The courtyards are surrounded by corridors and balconies with richly ornamented railings. Also, the structure is formed by a basic framework of cast iron columns that receive galvanized iron sheet cladding on interior and exterior faces, leaving an air chamber between them. These carefully designed stamped sheets organize the composition of the wall planes, coinciding with the window palillage, also made of iron. The interior columns serve to support the corridors and act in part as downspouts for rainwater, but do not contribute to horizontal stresses. The seismic stress is taken by the clad walls.

The building was a gift from Belgium to San José city. In fact, it was designed and built in Belgium to be transported to Costa Rica. The building was acquired in Belgium in metal sheets, made by the company Herrerías Aiseau S. A. Forges d’Aiseau. Later, in 1888, it was shipped from Europe to be built in San José. Its assembly took place between 1892 and 1896 with a design inspired by the Eiffel Tower and other buildings of the time. It is currently the oldest elementary school in the country.

In Summary

  • The Edificio Metálico is a heritage building dating from 1896, located in San José, Costa Rica, in front of Parque Morazán. It is the headquarters of the Buenaventura Corrales School, one of the oldest primary education institutions in the country.
  • The Buenaventura Corrales school responds to the canons of the neoclassical trend, common at that time in Latin America.
  • The building was a gift from Belgium to San José city.