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Saturday, August 2, 2014


I love architecture.   I don't know much about it, but I know what I like when I see it.   And, I know what I don't like...which usually entails blandness.   Bland architecture is usually the result of the devil.....MONEY.   Builders want to squeeze every last dollar they can get.  One of the methods to do that is to build a bland box.

What gets my goat is the fact these structures will be around for a long time and we all have to look at them for the next X number of decades (presuming we live that long).  IMHO, builders have an inherent responsibility to CONTRIBUTE to the community, not destroy it...which they can easily do by cranking out lifeless structures and/or repeating the same design over and over (cookie-cutter).

When I lived in San Diego many years ago, I was appalled how builders would fill in gullies to create more buildable land (blanding the land) then build a hundred or more homes that all looked exactly alike (you knew exactly where to find the bathroom in anyone's home), then added insult to injury by painting them a range of colors such as beige, off-white, tan, crème, and white.  UGH!!!!

Those vast neighborhoods will all age at the same time and be the blight of that community's future.

It was so refreshing to return to where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where homes were all shapes and sizes and colors, and styles varied from Victorian, Queen Anne, Craftsman, NW modern, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mission, and Ramblers, stucco, brick, and wood siding, shingled, shake, and tile roofs, single family homes, townhouses, and condos, low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise.  There was variety.   And, you know what they say about variety!!!

The past few days I've been in Quito.  Probably my 5th or 6th time there.   Quito's old town center is an amazing array of stunning architecture.   But, step out of that area and into the broader city and it's one great big disappointment.  Quito is sprawl.   In that sprawl are hundreds of mid-rise apartment/condo buildings with absolutely no architectural character.  Just lifeless boxes.  I've always looked at windows of a house or building as being the eyes of the structure and, through them, you see the soul of the building.   These buildings look soulless.

There's no identity.  There's no excitement.   There's no pride.   They were built just to make money, then the builders walk away from them without any responsibility to what they've done to the future look of the city.  One which, I believe, looks bleak.


  • In 'old town', structures vary in age from 100 to 500 years old.  They have character, personality, life, and soul.  People (ie; tourists) are drawn to the area.  Stores, gift shops, cafes, museums, are buzzing with life.  Sidewalks are filled with pedestrians.  There's an identity and charm to the area, people take pride in it and will fight for it.  They're passionate about it.
  • In 'new town' hundreds of buildings were built in the past few decades.   Old charming homes were torn down and where a single house stood, now stands a 10-story bland, box building.  The same next door, and next door, and next door.  Cars disappear into underground parking garages and people ascend into their private box within a box via the electronic-card-secured elevator and past security guards.   Few people are found on the sidewalks outside.  There's no charm, no cafes, no hangouts....just the mall down the street.   There's really no identity to the area because there's no village to identify with.  No one cares.  There's nothing to be passionate about. Who will be drawn to this in the future?
Builders complain that to build a structure with character, some architectural interest, will cost too much money.  BS.   All it takes is a little bit of window treatment, colors, a few extra bricks here and there, mouldings, and imagination.   With a little bit of work and a few bucks, architects and builders can actually CONTRIBUTE to the future look of the community and give us something we'll continue to enjoy looking at a long ways down the road.  With the materials (ie; lightweight resins) and technology we have today, there's no excuse.  No, they don't have to go to the level of the examples of old town, but they can apply inexpensive techniques and materials that completely alter the look and longevity of a building, and the atmosphere of the community.

All you have to do is look at living examples of longevity such as (to name just a few) San Francisco, Miami South Beach, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Salzburg.  Among other factors, their architecture sets them apart and draws millions from around the world.

I'm concerned what might happen to Cuenca.  Already, there's been a steady stream of apartment/condo buildings being built that are nothing more than red brick boxes with absolutely NO architectural contribution to the future look of the city.   No arches, no sconces, no colors, no geometric accents, no recesses, nada...zilch....blah.   If they keep cranking them out like they seem to be doing and no one does anything about it, it will severely alter the look of the city and not in a good way.  They will be our future eyesores.

So, since I've been in Quito several times and seen 'old town' many times, I decided to go into it with a different perspective.  I decided to walk around and look UP, instead of looking only at eye level and seeing mostly the commercialization angle.   Instead of taking pictures of whole buildings which I've already done, I wanted to take photos of architectural ELEMENTS.  Those things that give the building its identity and soul.  After all, practically every structure starts out as some sort of box...it's what you add TO it that forms its personality.  Like adding mascara and lipstick...just a little bit can turn a 'plain Jane' into a runway model.

Enjoy the photos!!



.....and now.....
A look at 'modern' Quito

Below are other photos I took during my walk, places I hadn't been before.

In old town Quito, there are regulations that govern signage.  They all must be flat against the building and made in this iron style.   No oversized, blinking, gaudy signage trying to outdo one another for your attention.

An old beauty, the Bolivar Theater, begging for restoration.  This is looking up at the ceiling when you walk into the foyer.

130 foot high winged Madonna statue called the Virgin de Quito watching over the city below her.

Part of the Carondelet ( presidential palace) (that yes, you can walk right up to without being shot).  Along the base at the street level are these tiny alcoves where little tiendas, cafes, or in this case...a barbershop...operate.  The entrances are very short, so a 6' person would have to stoop, to step in.

Plaque at the entrance to the Vice Presidents' building, located in the back of the Presidents building.

Ecuadorian flag flying over the entrance of the VP building.
Foyer of VP building (no access beyond this point)

Courtyard gardens of the San Francisco Monastery.

The church of the San Francisco Monastery.  This is a view to the front of the church from the choir loft in the back

Looking up at the ceiling over the choir loft.

From the choir loft looking to the front of the church.  The cross with Jesus (seen a few photos back) is just to my right.  Notice the people and pews down below (to get a feel for size).

Poor guys.   Bet they have a hefty Chiropractor bill.
I asked them where Sister Betrille was, but they didn't get it.   No sense of humor!!!
(just kidding)

View down the street and up the hill to the Basilica, where I climbed the right tower a few years ago.
For those of you (BRJ) who think this is a 3rd world country I'm living in.... 
An old colonial building retrofitted with a glass elevator in the center foyer.

Recycle stations throughout old town.  Clean, tidy, and organized.

Public, self-cleaning bathroom stations.
Verrrry 3rd world, eh????
I rest my case, no further questions Your Honor!!! 

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  1. I totally agree with you about the architecture. It's a shame to see how humans can change, and destroy all things in life. And then turn around and complain about the changes.
    Love your blogs, can't wait to stay at one of your rentals again.

  2. You just put into words my sentiments exactly! & here in SF, every year, another victorian or 4 burns down, & I know they will Never rebuild anything nearly so beautiful. Old Town Quito looks absolutely Beautiful! Hope all is well with you. Miss you, & hope to see you again some day...... Love T


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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