An exploration of the architecture in this UNESCO World Heritage Site

“Cuenca doesn’t look like a sixteenth-century city that has been preserved; it looks like a city that has been in use since the sixteenth century” Calvin Trillin

There are so many things I love about Cuenca, but my absolute favorite thing is the architecture. On December 1, 1999 the Historic Center of Cuenca was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in recognition of the historical, cultural and architectural merits of the city. My wonderful Spanish teacher, Cristina Flores Ortiz, with Walking Spanish Lessons, knows of my love for the architecture, and she presented me with a copy of a book published by the City of Cuenca in 2007 – “Guia de Arquitectura Cuenca.” I decided I would like to follow along with the same format as this book, and take pictures of the buildings as they are today, with their current usages. There are 165 buildings featured, so this will take some time. Some of them are very recognizable historic landmarks – such as the cathedrals. Some you might have walked by, and wondered about the history of that particular building. And some you might have walked by and not noticed at all… The book only includes one photo of each structure, and it is always only one exterior photo. I will try to include multiple photos, and also interior photos when possible, whenever access to the interior is available. All of the photos are mine, unless otherwise noted. The old historical photos come from various sources.
The historical facts are coming from the City of Cuenca, so I am assuming the history is correct. I am doing this only for the fun and love of it. I believe when you love something you want to learn as much as you can about it.
I hope some of you will enjoy following along on this tour of Cuenca historical architecture.
Jane Hiltbrand
August 5, 2019
http://www.architecturalcuenca.com

CIDAP – CENTRO INTERAMERICANO DE ARTES POPULARES

Former Doctor Gonzalo Cordero Crespo House This beautiful building was constructed between 1945 and 1952. Gonzalo Cordero Crespo was a prominent politician.  CIDAP was created in 1975, through an agreement between Ecuador and the Organization of American States OAS, which is dedicated to the promotion of Artisan craftsmanship and popular culture. In 1977 CIDAP rented…

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Escuela de Medicina/Museum of the University of Cuenca

The former School of Medicine of the University of Cuenca was built on this particular plot in 1916 because it was adjacent to the old St Vincent of Paul Hospital, therefore enabling students to obtain practice as well as theoretical training. The main entrance has an exquisite wrought-iron semicircular gate.  The whole building is slightly…

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Cuenca en La Noche

Cuenca is gorgeous all the time. But it is even more enchanting at night. “Cuenca doesn’t look like a sixteenth-century city that has been preserved; it looks like a city that has been in use since the sixteenth century.” Calvin Trillin

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Museo de Medicina

Formerly the St Vincent of Paul Church and Hospital. 12 de April and Solano Avenue. For over seven decades, these buildings accommodated the St Vincent of Paul Hospital, the city’s first health institution run by Social Welfare. It is accessed via a long exterior corridor that generates a slow approach, providing users with the time…

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Iglesia de la Merced

The Mercedarian Monastery in Cuenca was founded on 12 May 1712. Its first commander was Father Pablo de Santo Tomás, who initiated construction of the church and monastery. The latter was allocated to the Oblate Fathers, whose order was founded in the city of Cuenca by Father Padre Julio María Matovelle, the designer and builder…

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Gobernacion del Azuay

At the corner of Calle Simón Bolívar and Calle Luis Cordero, overlooking Parque Calderón , sits the Gobernacion del Azuay, the government center of Azuay Province.  There is an elegant staircase to the second floor, with a large tile mural as the backdrop. On the wall facing you as you enter is a large format wall…

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Calle las Herrerías

The Las Herrerías neighborhood is one of the most traditional neighborhoods in Cuenca.  In the past this area was on the edge between the city and rural areas.  Workers came to this area with their horses loaded with products to sell in Cuenca.  The horses were tied to posts, while their owners went to sell their products…

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Hotel Victoria

Calle Larga and Presidenta Cordova This building is one of an interesting group of dwellings from the republican period, built by the Crespo family.  It is thought to have been designed by a Chilean engineer, who also designed the adjacent house.  The first owner was Sra. Elvira Crespo Vega.  She was the daughter of the…

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Museo de las Culturas Aborígenes

The Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes at 5-24 Calle Larga has 15,000 Ecuadorian archaeological pieces, of which 5,000 are on display. 10,000 other pieces are in reserve, and can be visited by appointment.. The founder of the Aboriginal Cultures Museum is Juan Cordero Íñiguez, a former Minister of Education and native Cuencano, who started collecting…

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Casa de los Murales

12-40 Simon Bolivar This house with the golden facade was completed in 1917, but it’s construction took more than 20 years. Since then, it has been the home of the lawyer Aurelio Aguilar Vásquez; headquarters of the Municipal Union, and is now the Multiple Center, providing medical assistance to Municipal employees. It was restored by…

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Casa de los Arcos

Gustavo Montesinos built this seven story house in 1915 for his wife Isabel González  and family of 12 children. La Casa de los Arcos graces the banks of the Tomebamba River. In 2011 it was one of the sites for the Cuenca Art Bienal. The house sits alongside the beautiful 3 de Noviembre path, on…

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Casa de la Lira

Calle La Condamine The Casa de la Lira is a beautifully restored house on La Condamine Street in the El Vado neighborhood. It possesses elements of both the Colonial and Republican Eras. It is famous for the elegant green glass brick façade, with a very noticeable Lira (Lyre) on the balustrade of the rooftop. The…

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Area Convencion 45

When I first heard of Area 45, I thought it was the numerical description of a city neighborhood. But instead, it is the area where five future Presidents of Ecuador met after signing the Constitution of 1845. It is full of colorful Colonial and Republic era homes, that are a more modest size than the…

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Casa del Alfareros

House of the Potters / Mariscal Lamar y Calle Convencion 45 Previously called the House of the Convention of 45, this building is now called the El Alfarero (Potters) Cultural Center.  The history dates back to the Convention of 1845, in which Ecuador’s 4th Constitution was drawn up. The actual constitution was not drawn up…

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Escuela Central

Gran Colombia and Benigno Malo Originally this was the first public hospital in Cuenca from 1747 to 1822. From 1882 it functioned as a school for girls and for a short period of time also accommodated the library. It was known as the Central School due to its location in the city center. At this…

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Plaza de San Francisco

The Plaza de San Francisco Market is a wild colorful combination of  weaving, basketry, ceramics, ironwork, wooden utensils, kitchen cups and plates, pots, plastic trinkets, religious paraphernalia, guinea pig roasters, sweaters, ponchos, rugs, weavings, and more.  It has a very storied history.  But it hasn’t looked the way it looks now, even since I have…

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Casa del Parque / Mansion Matilde

Luis Cordero y Simon Bolivar This building, built in 1880, was originally owned by the Ordóñez Mata family. The family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were involved in powerful national political and economic groups. They exported quinine, cocoa husks and Panama hats, and the family members included governors of Azuay, bishops and…

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El Cafetal de Loja

Sucre 10-50 between General Torres and Padre Aguirre I have purchased excellent coffee from Loja at this store so many times, but never went further than the counter in the front. I only recently discovered there is a truly lovely cafe directly behind the front store. And then I got exceptionally lucky and asked the…

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Casa de las Palomas

Calle Benigno Malo 6-40 This adobe constructed house was originally built around 1900, and at that time only had two rooms and a large lot that was used as stables.  In 1908 the building was bought by Joaquín Rendón who added on to the construction.  Joaquín Rendón  was a painter and dedicated most of his…

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