Arquitecture, the city of Pizarro
The founding of cities in Peru was the act that truly solidified Spanish occupation of that conquered territory.
Nonetheless, as laid out in Spanish law of the time, urban planning in regions annexed by the king had to
follow the style imposed by him. Part of that included a design those of us from Lima know so well: the famous
checkerboard pattern of streets, starting with the main square at the center of town.
Around the main square, city planners had to make certain they built the obligatory structures: a church, municipal
building, governor's house, and homes of the most prominent citizens, especially those who had participated
actively in the Conquest. Such is the case of the residence of Juan de Aliaga, one of the thirteen men who
faithfully followed Francisco Pizarro from Gallo Island; the house is still standing on the exact spot where he built
it, next to Peru's Government Palace (equivalent of the White House).
Unfortunately for us, there are very few original examples of architecture from the period directly after Pizarro
founded the city in 1536, primarily due to the 1687 and 1746 earthquakes which destroyed the city. However,
there are exceptionally notable landmarks from the 17th and 18th centuries that are veritable masterpieces of
Spanish Colonial architecture.
When Baroque architecture landed in Peru in the 17th century, it found fully developed master builders, the
product of having nearly two centuries of uninterrupted work throughout the Andes to learn from. These
architects took the Baroque style, reinterpreted it, and then completed works in our Colonial cities that gave them
a distinctive flavor. Not only did they apply traditional European designs, but they also used many Pre-Hispanic
techniques and incorporated much of its imagery in structures that follow a style called "Mestizo Baroque",
clearly visible in the city of Arequipa and others in the southern Andes.
Along different lines, once the Counter Reformation was in full swing, something that also took place in the
17th century, church construction underwent significant changes. Their builders switched from the medieval floor
plan to incorporate a Latin cross plan as a way of accentuating the cult of Christ. Examples of this style of church
architecture in Lima are the San Francisco, La Merced, and San Agustin churches, icons of Spanish Colonial art.