Bolivia Architecture

The study of Bolivian architecture is divided into three major periods: pre-Hispanic, colonial and republican. The creation of the Audiencia de Charcas (1551) marked the future Bolivian state. From a juridical point of view, the Audiencia de Charcas had been part of the Peruvian viceroyalty until 1776, when it was incorporated into the viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, until 1811; therefore the current limits between Peru and Bolivia are purely political, and it is for this reason that the Peruvian architecture of the shores of Lake Titicaca and Bolivian architecture have many points in common.

Starting from the colonial period, Bolivian architecture came into contact with the West, evolving in parallel with European architecture. The Renaissance style, whose development reaches 1630, is the first to spread. During the first century, considered a period of formation, the Renaissance is characterized by the pluralism of styles that motivates the works belonging to the 16th century. and the lack of organic unity found in the buildings of that time. The works created between 1570 and 1630 are mainly mannerist. The first examples of Baroque architecture, in the Peruvian Viceroyalty, appear around 1630. From that moment this style developed on the basis of models imported from Europe, concretely Spanish, without particular innovations, until the end of the 17th century. For Bolivia history, please check

Starting from 1660 in the Baroque context, a new technique was born, whose chronological and geographical limits can be localized between 1680 and 1790 in a relatively small area, which goes from Arequipa to Potosí, along the shores of the lake Titicaca and including all that territory that the Indios called Collasuyo. This new architectural trend is called the ” mestizo style ”, since, on the basis of European structural elements and using a Western ornamental lexicon, it develops a decoration whose iconographic themes are characterized by various motifs, such as tropical flora and fauna, motifs classics of Mannerist derivation, pre-Columbian symbols and pre-Renaissance Christian elements. Mestizo architecture not only appeals to classical fable in decoration, but it also makes European grotesque motifs current again. Unlike the European Baroque, the mestizo style confirms its fidelity, in religious architecture, to the Latin cross plan, leaving out the curvilinear systems and developing a system with atrium and external chapels.

This typology, which initially appears in Mexico, is later established also in the Viceroyalty of Peru, and reflects the special religious sentiment typical of pre-Columbian cultures. In it, the cult in the open air was advocated, for which open spaces were created capable of bringing together a large number of people and the cult of the dead was maintained. The open chapels of Upper Peru differ from the Mexican ones in that they are characterized by the presence of an additional chapel, generally central, the Miserere chapel, where the dead were watched. The most interesting expression of this architecture is the Copacabana sanctuary which stands on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Beginning in 1675, the Jesuits settled east of the Beni River, in the plains of Moxos, and founded the mission of Our Lady of Loreto on the banks of the Mamoré River. In 1691 they began the conquest of Chiquitos and founded the town of San Javier. When they were expelled from America in 1767, they had founded 15 missions in Moxos and 10 in Chiquitos. The splendor of La Paz, the great city of the Collao region, dates back to the 18th century, when its main civil and religious monuments were built, including the church of San Francesco, which began around 1750 and ended 20 years later, which is the most representative building of the ” mestizo style ” in this region.

Around the middle of the 17th century. the Baroque style that will reach its peak in the 18th century begins in the Villa Imperial de Potosí, located at an altitude of 4000 m. An important facade and a monumental tower were added to the church of the Company, which has now disappeared, both built by the Indian Sebastián de la Cruz. Of all the temples in the Potosí area, the one that best represents the culminating moment of the Mestizo and Baroque style of Potosí is the church of San Lorenzo, whose facade dates back to the years between 1728 and 1744. La casa della Moneda, built between 1759 and 1773, it was the building with the largest covered area. The cathedral church of Potosí, built between 1819 and 1836, closes the cycle of the Baroque in Bolivia and is the last of the great American cathedrals.

At the beginning of the 19th century. the war of independence broke out. All the works begun in this period were continued and new ones began, so that the architecture was not affected by any change, at least until 1835. It was built in a neoclassical style with many Baroque elements. The most representative figure of this period is the Franciscan M. Sanahuja, author of the project of the cathedral church of the city of La Paz, in which also F. Beltres participates. Another prominent architect is J. Núñez del Prado, a native of the place.

The neoclassical style of the first forty years of the 19th century. he follows the architectural treatises, and especially that of Vignola, while the colonial style persists in civil architecture. On the external facades of these buildings, balconies with wooden or iron balustrades are used. Around the middle of the 19th century. all traces of the half-caste style disappear from the facades of the buildings. During the Republic an architecture of European imitation was employed; we can therefore speak of an eclectic architecture, which owes much of its diffusion to the return of the Jesuits who use the neo-Gothic style in their buildings. The main representatives of this architectural trend are: the Spanish Jesuit E. Morales, author of the College of San Callisto, in La Paz (1882), and A. Camponovo, who works in La Paz and Sucre.

In the first decades of the 20th century. the presence of art nouveau is noted above all in the facades of the buildings. The most representative authors of this style are Bolivia Loza and A. Quino. After the fall of the liberal government in 1920, a new architectural trend emerges which, based on the use of pre-Columbian and colonial elements, tries to create its own style. The most relevant figure of this neo-colonial trend is the architect E. Villanueva who, in his search for a national style, ends up adhering to functionalism. His most important work is the central building of the University of San Andrés in La Paz (1948).

Modern trends gradually spread to the main cities of the Bolivia; among them the project of the University of Oruro (1971), by the architects G. Madeiros and F. Anaya, stands out. The same studio has built various villas and other residential buildings. Another representative of this trend is A. Torres, author of the Alemán Club in La Paz and the oilfield building in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. During the decade 1970-80 the modern international style is highlighted in Bolivia with the project of the Sheraton Hotel in La Paz.

Bolivia Architecture

About the author