Peruvian architecture is generally synonymous with Machu Picchu, among other incredible Inca structures. Because of this, it is rather easy to become oblivious to an architectural gem of a city that is a culmination of various styles and celebrates change. Lima, the capital of Peru, is one of the few cities in the world, almost entirely defined by its architecture. The buildings of several different eras, the colours, the streets, and their intricate details accommodate its inhabitants and facilitate life vibrantly. It is a city that has been resilient for several centuries by preserving its rich history and welcoming the change of modernism. This unique dynamic creates a very specific and vibrant language of architecture that one can see all over the city. The rich Peruvian culture and its people are reflected throughout the city in various built forms.  

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet1
A glimpse of the city_©
An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet2
La Marina Lighthouse_photo by Giacomo Bloisa_ ©

A Brief architectural history of Lima.

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet3
A10340-An architectural rRemnants of Inca pyramids in Lima_©hiddenincatours.comeview of location Lima, Peru

With the establishment of the city of Lima in 1535 through the Spanish foundations, there is a general notion that the architectural history of Lima starts from here. Although there is adequate existing proof to validate that, the architectural history of Lima pre-dates the Spanish invasion dating back thousands of years. Lima was a focal point for ancient societies, specifically the Inka and Maranga cultures. Several pyramid-like structures and monasteries made of clay adobe bricks were capsules containing the rich culture the place once had. The scale and proportions of these structures were a result of skilled labour and craftsmanship that was well ahead of its time. Most of these structures, however, have been lost to time and to the Spanish conquerors who looked to destroy these structures in the 16th century to create a “garden city”. Remnants of these structures can be found all over the city, especially the more recent example of the massive Huaca Pucllana found in the Miraflores district of Lima. 

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet4
Huaca Pucllana_©

The vibrant and symbolic Colonial Architecture present.

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet5
The Archbishop Palace _photo by Alberto Capparelli_ ©

The most striking feature of Lima is its incredible colonial structures that have a strong influence from the Renaissance. With the Spanish establishment of the city, Lima became a hotspot for several cultures to melt into specifically Spanish, Asian, and Andean. Although several structures have been lost through time and the many earthquakes that hit the city, there are still incredible cathedrals, mansions, and plazas that have stood the test of time and have become symbolic of the city. The Historic City Center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is defined by several styles, specifically, the Spanish Baroque, The Renaissance, The Spanish Neoclassic, and Gothic Styles. Some structures that best encapsulate this include The Presidential Palace, Archbishop Palace, The Municipal Palace, The Aliaga House, and many more that are time capsules containing the rich cultures that still define the place. The intricate details in the structures are best seen through the balconies. With over one thousand five hundred Colonial Balconies across the City Center, they are a testament to the craftsmanship that now helps define the cityscape of Lima. The structures are pure, the colors vibrant, and the details symbolic. 

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet6
Colonial architecture symbolic to the city_Photo by Aliro Jose_ ©

Modernism’s brutalist flavour on Lima. 

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet7
Modernist structures developed in the 20th Century_photo by Jorge Gordon©

With the increasing influx of people into the city and the subsequent economic demands that came with it, modernism strongly influenced Lima. Strolling through the streets, the imprints of modernist structures mixed with traditional colonial structures creates a rather unique cityscape, one that South America is unfamiliar with. In Lima’s Historic Centre, the works of Enrique Seoane Ros, Walter Weberhofer, and many others changed the dynamic of the city by introducing a new architectural language that would subsequently act as a base for many other modernist structures to follow suit. Although met with initial public reluctance, the projects were backed by the government. The buildings were the epitome of modernism, with their emphasis on services, respect for raw materials, and simplicity of their facades. The simple brutalist nature of these structures did positively balance out with the intricate and detailed traditional facades. Modernism in Lima however did evolve, with unique structures having color and minor ornamentation that paid respect to the country and the land that it was in. Some examples include La Nacional Building, Ostalaza Building, Hotel Maury, and many more. 

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet8
Garcilazo de la Vega_©

A city of magical architectural contrasts.

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet9
Blend of contrasting styles _photo by Luis Guevara_©

From the pre-colonial era, the Spanish Invasion, the Independence, the natural disasters, and the influence of modernism, Lima has been subject to several different architectural styles spanning many different influential eras. Additionally, the city evolved through the centuries as a hub that accommodated different cultures and people. Thus, the buildings born out of this beautiful diversity are a clear reflection of its inhabitants, making Lima one of the most architecturally unique cities in the world. The city stands out as there is clarity in terms of its symbolism even if it is a blend of several different styles. These styles come together organically and are sympathetic to one another while being accommodative to change. The city centre is a good example wherein colonial architecture facilitates modern developments. The developments in turn are highly sympathetic to the area’s heritage and show respect. These imprints continue all over the rest of the city, creating the cityscape. 

The lively and diverse streets

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet10
The unique streets of Lima_©

The rich history of Lima, contrasting architectural styles, and the culmination of various cultures make for vibrant streets bustling with life. Architecture facilitates these liminal spaces of Lima as a celebration of culture that has evolved through centuries. Walking through the streets makes one experience the various layers of architecture that systematically and hierarchically work with one another. The intricacies of ornamentation mixed with the colors of the residences and the stark simplicity of newer buildings make for a unique street experience. The Bohemian District Barranco is a good example that best encapsulates this. Home to several writers, artists, and residents, the streets are generally colorful, unique, and lined with landscapes that define the pathways all around.  Pedestrianization is of the most importance in Lima wherein vehicular movements are arranged around footpaths. Walking is often the best way to experience all that Lima has to offer. 

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet11
The Bohemian District Barranco_©

The architectural resilience of Lima.

An architectural review of location: Lima, Peru - Sheet12
Imprints of the past mixed with the present_photo by Renato Ruterto_©

Resilience is a word that best encapsulates the city of Lima. Through invasions, natural disasters, population influxes, and political turmoil, the city has come out strong and always finds ways to be accommodative to change. This is reflected in the architecture present here, where resilience is seen in every aspect of the built and the unbuilt. The streets, the colonial structures, the residences, the walls, and the historic balconies all have stories to tell. The city is an outcome of facilitative architecture that has ensured to evolve through generations and will continue to do so for years to come. Lima is a city of not just rich architectural knowledge but also archaeological knowledge, which can help uncover more layers to its already rich history. Through its beautiful complexities and subtle imprints, Lima is undeniably one of the most incredible architectural cities in the world. 

Historic city center_©

World heritage site (no date) Lima | For UNESCO World Heritage Travellers. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2023). 

Dupre, B. (2017) The most impressive buildings in Lima to visit, Culture Trip. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2023). 

Blake, L.W. (2021) Read this before your next trip to Lima, Travel. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2023). 

Brown, W. et al. (no date) An architectural guide to Peru, Passion Passport. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2023). 

Macgregor, M. ‘Maz’ (2017) Lima City – a magical place full of contrasts, Medium. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2023). 

Durrfeld, D. (2023) Best things to do in Lima Peru: 10 tips for the Ultimate Travel Experience!, Passport the World. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2023). 


Naveen Raju is an assiduous Master of Architecture student at the University of Sydney. He is a curious individual who questions stringent ideologies and believes architecture is a positive facilitator for the communities it caters to. His main interests lie in understanding climate change, organic settlements and playing his piano!