Former Casa de La Temperancia
Plazoleta de San Sebastian, Sucre 13-89
This building was erected in 1876 under the order of Bishop Miguel León to provide shelter for the alcoholics in the city and province, for their rehabilitation and cure. The design is attributed to the German Redemptorist monk Juan Bautista Stiehle, who worked with the bishop on other projects in the city. The entrance is located at the center of the building – a large rectangular door framed by moulding and a pointed arch.
Its location on the city’s former urban western boundary, in the traditional district of St Sebastian, was strategic for the original use of the building. The mission of the “Temperance House” was to offer the necessary services to enable its patients to overcome the vice of drink.
It contained large rooms serving as collective dormitories and small cells for isolating extreme cases. The city authorities, by means of the councillors’ votes, decided who needed reclusion of this type, and they also decided the fate of the rehabilitated. The building fulfilled this mission until 1896, when vast numbers of inmates managed to escape.
Thereafter the building lay in a state of neglect until 1912, being rented out partially or wholly during the interim period. From 1924 to 1939 it served as one of the wings of Cuenca’s Prison for Men, falling into an advanced state of decay due to neglect by the prison authorities. Almost a complete ruin, it subsequently passed into the hands of the Social Welfare Board, which used the building for works of charity, first as a shelter for the homeless and then as a shelter for the elderly.
The adobe building with traditional tile roofs, has two large courtyards with gardens.
It was subsequently taken over by the “Gota de Leche” organization, which provided assistance to impoverished mothers. It finally became a home for orphans and abandoned children, necessitating alterations due to the lack of classroom space. As such, corridors were incorporated into the various spaces, cells were joined together, and the former chapel was turned first into dormitories and then into a games room.
These days its large halls provide a constant changing showcase of contemporary Latin American artistic trends.
The trees in the garden (capulis, walnuts, guabos, willows, myrtles), are described in countless inventories drawn up by the various tenants over the years.
A mural on the rear wall of the building, by Diegumberrto.
This work marked the beginning of the technical and scientifically supported restoration of buildings and ancient monuments in the city, which helped to make Cuenca a UNESCO World Heritge Site.
Luis Crespo Ordóñez, a famous Cuenca painter, proposed and supported the creation of a Museum of Modern Art. In 1978 both the Central Bank of Ecuador and Cuenca City Council, under the mayor Dr Pedro Córdova, pledged their support to the project. The restoration works were directed by the architect Patricio Muñoz Vega, and on 1 August 1981 the museum opened to the public.