Local architect wins state award for Market Square dome

March 4, 2018 GMT

Among Brownsville architects, Roberto Ruiz is the go-to guy when it comes to historic buildings.

“I’ve been here the longest,” he said in a recent interview. “Let’s put it that way.”

Ruiz was the architect on the $12 million restoration of the 1912 DancyCourthouseBuilding, a project completed in 2006, and most recently has been working on the Port of Brownsville’s new administration building, taking architectural cues from the port’s 1930s harbormaster building.

But it was his expertise on the restoration of the city’s iconic Market Square dome that earned Ruiz the Award of Excellence in Historic Architecture during the Texas Historical Commission’s Real Places 2018 Conference in January in Austin. Ruiz, the only architect in Texas to receive the honor this year, said he was “very humbled.”

Ruiz was commissioned by the city more than two decades ago to produce a study on the condition of the Market Square dome. His conclusion: It was falling apart. Last year, the city awarded the contract to restore it.


Figuring out how required imagination. The answer came in the shape of a balloon, a big one, to the same dimensions as the old dome. This was inflated, then concrete poured over it to form a shell. Waterproofing was applied, something the original dome lacked, Ruiz said.

“For some reason back then waterproofing wasn’t a big deal, but it is nowadays,” he said.

Ruiz said three different colors of mosaic tile were used in place of the original.

“We had to work with the Texas Historical Commission in trying to replicate it,” he said. “We can’t just arbitrarily come up with something different.”


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