Quito in context 

The Inca city’s ruins served as the foundation for Quito, Ecuador’s capital, which was built on them in the 16th century and is 2,850 metres above sea level. The city features Latin America’s best-preserved, least-altered historic centre despite the 1917 earthquake. A blend of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish, and indigenous art, the “Baroque school of Quito” is best exemplified by the monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, as well as the Church and Jesuit College of La Compaa, all of which have opulent interiors.

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(City of Quito (Ecuador) _Image ©UNESCO ) https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/2/gallery/

The Historic Centre of Quito

The city of Quito was established by the Spanish in 1534 and is situated in the Andes at a height of 2,818 metres. Its historic centre is among the largest and finest maintained in all of Spanish America. The Quito Baroque School (Escuela Quitena) is well known for contributing to world art. Man and environment combine in a beautiful composition in the metropolis to produce a special and transcendental masterpiece. The city, which has survived centuries of urban development and has preserved unity and harmony in its urban framework, is the birthplace of Pre-Colombian cultures and a significant testimony to Spanish colonisation.

  • In all of the Audencian cities, including those surrounding Audencia, the Baroque School of Quito (Escuela Quitena) was recognised as impacting art, particularly architecture, sculpture, and painting.
  • Quito creates a harmonious sui generis where human and natural actions combine to produce a singular and sublime work of its kind.
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(Quito (Ecuador) _Image ©Dockwalk) https://www.wbcsd.org/Programs/Cities-and-Mobility/Sustainable-Cities/News/Sustainable-urbanization-is-key-to-your-business

Quito, Ecuador, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, is becoming a crane city, with many top architects such as Pritzker Prize winner and AD100 Hall of Famer Jean Nouvel, AD100 Bjarke Ingels, Moshe Safdie, and Carlos Zapata under construction. The first starchitect-designed structure rose in 2017 due to a revised zoning code and new transit-oriented development incentives and is shaping up to be a starchitect’s next frontier.

The Arts Of Ecuador

Ecuador has a strong folk art and music legacy, with Quito as a colonial centre for wood carving and painting. Mestizo and indigenous populations are experts in specific crafts such as agave-fibre bags, wood carving, leatherwork, woollen tapestries, carpets, and Panama hats. Folk music is also diverse, with the well-known yumbo and sanjuanito from the highlands, the slow, sorrowful pasillo from the lowlands, and various local African and indigenous traditions. The rebirth of interest in folklore among urban people has resulted in the formation of folkloric dance troupes. Modern music is influenced by Colombian cumbia and Caribbean salsa, recorded by Ecuadoran groups with local themes.

The folk architecture comprises various materials, including bamboo, adobe, rammed earth, wattle and daub, and wood. The large tolas (pre-Inca ramp mounds) of the northern highlands, the Inca stone walls of Ingapirca near Caar, the great colonial churches of Quito, and the old urban centre of Quito, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978 and Cuenca in 1999, are among Ecuador’s architectural monuments.

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(Church of the Society of Jesus (Ecuador) _Image ©UNESCO)https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/107452

One of the most well-known international names in contemporary art is painter Oswaldo Guayasamn (1919-99); of mestizo-indigenous heritage, he acquired an international reputation exposing his society’s social issues. Huasipungo (1934), by Jorge Icaza, illustrates the plight of Andean indigenous people in a feudal system and garnered international acclaim. Many novelists have come from the coast, especially those of the Guayaquil group, who investigated life among the region’s montuvio population (people of mixed indigenous, African, and European ancestry) with a social realism attitude. 


The earliest hints of the modern movement appeared in Ecuador in the 1930s, when historical and colonial styles were still prevalent. Only a few architects attempted to leave the colonial and Neo-Gothic educational institutions during this period. Alfonso Calderón Moreno and Leonardo Arcos Córdova contributed to the Eclecticism and new Art Deco trends, combining them with regional colonial and pre-Columbian architectural customs. But before the Second World War, immigrants from central Europe were mostly responsible for Ecuador’s unique contemporary architecture.

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(Teatro Politecnico By Oswaldo De La Torre(1965) _Image ©Camila Lanusse) https://archive.pinupmagazine.org/articles/article-quito-ecuador-architecture-development-natalia-torija-nieto

A new generation of architects emerged in the 1970s, driven by a natural sensibility for materials and the resurgence of age-old building methods used in colonial architecture and indigenous cultures in new ways. The 1959 construction of Max Ehrensberger’s Iglesia Luterana exemplifies this decline of the International Style in favour of a more rural and regionalist look. This rustic movement is best exemplified by Casa Araceli, which Solis completed in 1973 and has whitewashed bricks, wood, and inclined sloping roofs. Gustavo and Diego Guayasamn gave a fresh interpretation of colonial haciendas by reconstructing the famed artist Oswaldo Guayasamn’s former workshop and home in Ecuador.

The relocation of the 1960 Mariscal Sucre International Airport, which had restricted surrounding building heights to four floors, marked the beginning of Quito’s urban transformation. A new zoning regulation now permits 40-story structures in the city, although air rights must be obtained from the government. With a “why not here?” mentality to construct bigger and better, Quito-based development business Uribe & Schwarzkopf has been hiring renowned architects worldwide. The city’s first underground metro line, whose first phase will run from north of the former airport to the southern suburbs in 2020, is part of the government’s effort to improve city centre density. A financial incentive has been put in place for developers: if they build a new residential complex within an eight-minute walk of the new metro.

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(Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Merced (Ecuador) _Image ©UNESCO) https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/2/gallery/
(cofeic building by ovidio wappenstein (1978) (Ecuador) _Image ©Romulo moya peralta) https://archive.pinupmagazine.org/articles/article-quito-ecuador-architecture-development-natalia-torija-nieto


Centre, U.W.H. (no date) City of Quito, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/2/ (Accessed: 28 May 2023). 

(2019) Why Quito, Ecuador, Is the Starchitect’s Next Frontier. Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/why-quito-ecuador-is-the-starchitects-next-frontier (Accessed: 28 May 2023).

(2017) Why You Should Visit Quito, Ecuador in 2018. Available at: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/why-you-should-visit-quito-ecuador.