Colombia Architecture

By | December 15, 2021

Colombian architecture, like all South American architecture, can be divided into three large, very differentiated periods: Colonial viceregal (16th-18th century); Independence and national organization (1810-1920); Modernity (since 1920).

For the first period see what has been said in this Encyclopedia (X, p. 798). The architecture of the second period, which occupies the entire century. 19th, is marked by the use of the neoclassical style, adopted by republican architecture for its democratic symbolism and its relationship with the French Revolution. Neoclassicism presupposes a differentiation from Baroque architecture, assimilated to the Spanish monarchical culture; however, it had its antecedents at the end of the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada: it was practically introduced by the military engineers of the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid.

The works created by the religious architect D. Petres, aggregate of the Academy of Fine Arts of Murcia, are among the most important of the period: the Capuchin convent (1873); the cathedral with the Shrine (1806-11), completed by N. León in 1827 and the astronomical observatory (1808), all in Bogotá. In addition, the church of Zapaquira and that of Santa Fe di Antioquia belong to him.

The typology of the observatory is unprecedented in the South American architecture of the colonies. These works have a volumetric arrangement that takes up the mass structure of classical architecture. The facades are ordered with shallow flat pillars and entablature of Greek-Roman origin. This architectural line has its continuity in the works of M. Pérez del Arroyo such as the church of San Francesco de Cali (1847-1927), and the brick factory, where there is a certain eclectic taste in the Moorish influence (Mudejar). For Colombia 2015, please check

The most important work of the middle of the period is the Congress of Nueva Granada or Capitolio of Bogotá (1847-1915): the architect T. Reed, educated in Germany, was the author. The nature of the design of this complex building, seat of the national government, and its urban location, in accordance with the cathedral and the severe and wide Simón Bolívar square, required it to be built in the style of monumental classicism with reminiscences of KF Schinkel. The building was completed by the Italians M. Lombardi and P. Cantini in 1915. T. Reed also built the Banco di Bogotá and the building of the Panóptico di Bogotá, originally conceived as a prison and today a historical museum. This new radial typology is equally unheard of in Latin America. His rigorous monumentalism and

In the rural architecture, near Bogotá, the Casaquinta of S. Bolívar (1820) stands out, where a whole architecture of detail and filigree of wood in gratings and windows is set on the classic Hispanic typology of the country house, typical of the from the 19th century. Other significant works from the end of this century are the Plaza de Toros, in a Moorish-Sevillian revival, and the National Theater (1885) by the Italian P. Cantini. Examples of Romanesque-Gothic architecture are the church of Chapinero, in Bogotá, the unusual Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Las Lajas in Ipiales, built on a bridge, while the Galleria Hernández in Bogotá, which recalls the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, constitutes an example of the architecture of iron and glass.

The third period opens the doors of modern architecture to Colombia passing through the anti-academic reaction between 1900 and 1930: the Art-nouveau, the neocolonial nationalist revival and the Art-déco follow one another. The Faenza Theater in Bogotá, with its elegant circular entrance and large glass surfaces, is an excellent example of the first style while the Cinema Teatro Gaitán in Bogotá is of the last one we have mentioned.

In the years 1932-40 the Colombian upper middle class built in important residential complexes on the outskirts of the city, houses known as ” English chalets ”, in the Tudor, Jacobean, Queen Anne styles.

According to R. Gutiérrez (1983), even if they are buildings of great craftsmanship in the technique of brick and stone, with this predilection for the revival the entry of modern architecture into Colombia is delayed. However, the houses built in the La Merced neighborhood of Bogotá by the Chilean architects J. Casanovas and R. Manheim are different. In this same period, between 1928 and 1935, the architecture of the first European rationalism appears in Bogotá, characterized by a simple purist language, not very relevant even according to R. Gutiérrez, who considers the influence on it of the organic architecture by FL Wright, mediated through architects trained in the United States, among which P. de la Cruz stands out. In the University City of Bogotá there are some prominent manifestations of this style.

The current Colombian architecture, starting from 1960, can be divided into two distinct sides: on the one hand buildings with an international formal line and on the other an architecture in search of a more representative style of the national aspect.

In the first group, in direct relationship with the existing architecture in the United States, there are office buildings, banks or hotels such as the Banco Ganadero in Bogotá (1975), the Hotel Tequendama and the Torre de Avianca in the same city and the Techo racecourse by architects Hermide and González. The second group can highlight the researches which, starting from 1950, although moving in different directions, look at the socio-economic and cultural reality of the country: the proposals and studies on economic housing and buildings, such as those of CINVA, are particularly significant.. Between 1950 and 1965 there is also a kind of interrelation between organic architecture, brick craftsmanship and neo-Moorish pictorialism (neomudéjar), manifested e.g. in the works of O. Valenzuela, who will open the way to the taste for the visual quality of materials and local techniques and will influence the works of the most relevant current architects: F. Martínez Sanabria, who produced the excellent complex of houses in El Refugio (Bogotá), in 1962-65, and R. Salmona, who achieved world fame with the proposal of an architecture appropriate to the place and climate, aware of the means employed and of his own national identity.

In fact, Salmona tries to combine local tradition with international architectural culture. Trained in the school of Le Corbusier (1949-57), however, he produces a very different line of design, as seen in his famous housing complex El Parque in Bogotá.

These buildings dating from 1965-70, housing 1800 people, in 300 apartments, despite having been conceived as a plastic object in the urban landscape, have a strong dialectical relationship with the nearby Plaza de Toros and the green mountain on which the city lies. The buildings are built in exposed brick and have the shape of a complex of volumes and terraces that turn in a spiral as they grow in height. Other relevant housing complexes by the architect Salmona are the San Cristóbal (1964) and El Paraíso. In the center of Bogotá he built the brick tower of the Colombian Society of Architects (1972), where he breaks the traditional parallelepiped of the office building of M. Van der Rohe, cutting and folding it. This same intention can be read in the work of the Automobile Club of Bogotá.

The spatial tradition of the Colombian rural dwelling, with its sequence of spheres, articulations and small corners, is resumed in his most recent works: the Casa de Huéspedes del Gobierno Colombiano (1984) and the Centro Cultural and Museo del Oro in Quimbaya (1986 -87).

In the first work, built on an island in the Colombian Caribbean, blocks of yellowish stone used in Cartagena de Indias and exposed concrete are used as materials. The multiple courtyards that connect the interiors are crossed by a continuous play of water between canals and sources; also note the contrasting play of light and shadow in the interior, which opens through windows that frame particular areas of the landscape. This same theme is used in the second work, where the path that crosses the spaces diagonally is remarkable.

In the conservation of the historical and architectural heritage, works such as the recovery of the church of Santo Domingo in Tunja by the architect A. Corradine Angulo or the recovery of cities such as Cartagena or Villa de Leyva stand out, the latter much discussed in the light of contemporary conservation criteria. Currently specialists are working on the restoration of the old colonial district of Bogotá, called La Candelaria. In the field of the reuse of ancient buildings we point out the work of Mosseri, Sanabria, Franco and Marciales on the National Library of Bogotá.

Colombia Architecture