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. So 2019 is the 20 year anniversary of that designation.

My fabulous 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

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 … Continue reading Casa de los Murales

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 … Continue reading Casa de los Arcos

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 … Continue reading Casa de la Lira

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 … Continue reading Area Convencion 45

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 … Continue reading Casa del Alfareros

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 … Continue reading Escuela Central

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 … Continue reading Plaza de San Francisco

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 … Continue reading El Cafetal de Loja

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 … Continue reading Casa de las Palomas


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