"Soy Ronald Elward, escritor e investigador holandés, y llegué al Perú en 2008. Aquí encontré una Lima con una sorprendente arquitectura y una historia de más de 4.000 años de civilización, desconocida por muchos. Es como si fuera una ciudad escondida y la mejor manera de descubrirla es caminando. El resultado de esta fascinación fue la creación de 17 rutas para caminar, cada una investigada en detalle, y que ninguna otra empresa ofrece. Así que si lo que busca es una experiencia diferente, tendré mucho gusto en compartir esta Lima que para mí es, sin lugar a dudas, el secreto mejor guardado de América Latina".

Architecture in Lima

The central part of the coastal desert of Peru, where Lima is located, witnessed the formation of the first civilization in South America. Just 100 km north of Lima lays Caral, the first city in the continent, dating from 5,000 years ago.

The oldest constructions in the metropolitan area of Lima are the so called U-shaped temples; built 3,500 years ago by a Chavin inspired culture. The largest temples are La Florida (Rímac), Garagay (San Martín de Porres, walk 10) and Huacoy (Carabayllo).

Then a period without information, until around 200 BC a new culture arrives: the Lima Culture. They built their pyramids with small adobe bricks. Huaca Pucllana (Miraflores), Huallamarca (San Isidro, walk 7) and the older parts of Maranga (San Miguel, walk 13) belong to this culture. Around 600 AD they disappeared, as did their contemporaries, the Moche culture in the north and the Nazca culture in the south. Probably a mega Niño was the cause.

Between 900 and 1000 AD the area of Lima was part of the Huari empire, originating from Ayacucho. They used the existing temples of the Lima culture, but Cajamarquilla (Lurigancho) was the main centre in this period.

After the demise of the Huari, new cultures arrived. The Ichma dominated the two most southern river valleys of Lurín and Rímac, and the Colli dominated the valley of the river Chillón. The capital of the Ichma was Pachacámac, with regional centers in Armatambo (Chorrillos) and Maranga (San Miguel, walk 13). The Ichma built their pyramids with large adobe blocks and ramps going up to the top of the structures. The main centre of the Colli was in present day Comas. Around 1470 the Ichma subjected themselves to the arriving Inca´s. The Colli resisted and had to be conquered.

During the Inca empire Pachacámac was the main oracle. The Ichma sites kept their functions. Present downtown Lima was the seat of a local ruler as well, with the main temple on the site of the present cathedral. In 1535 Pizarro chose this area as his capital, due to the good supply lines to the Spanish possessions in Central-America. He divided the city in rectangular blocks (the damero de Pizarro) and handed those out to his companions and the religious orders.

From the 16th till mid 18th century the dominant architectural style was the baroque. Due to several heavy earthquakes not many buildings have survived from this period. The facade of the church of San Agustín is one of the best examples. A typical feature are the balconies, a Moorish influence, brought by the conquistadores (walk 1).

Around 1570 the native population had to leave their villages and where resettled in newly constructed towns, called reducciones de los Indios. Best preserved are San Pedro de Carabayllo, Santa Maria Magdalena (walk 5)and Santiago de Surco. Escaped slaves founded - now disappeared - palenques in remote areas in Carabayllo, Chosica and Lurigancho, but many went to live in Barrios Altos (walk 3) as well.

The earthquake of 1746 destroyed Lima almost completely and churches and palaces were rebuilt in new styles; rococo, like Casa Goyeneche and Casa Trece Monedas, and neoclassicism, such as the churches of Santo Domingo and San Pedro. Viceroy Amat developed a large building activity in the area below the bridge (Rímac, walk 4). In 1821 Lima became the capital of a new, smaller, republic.

It took till the mid 19th century for this republic to experience its first economic boom, with the guano (birdshit) trade. Big mansions were erected in Jr de la Union (walk 2) and other parts of downtown Lima and the villages Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrilos became fashionable summer resorts. This is all ended in the war with Chile in 1879. The resorts were destroyed and Lima was occupied for a couple of years.

The opening of the Panama Canal and the first World War brought a new period of prosperity for Lima. In downtown a few art nouveau houses were built (Casa Fernandini, walk 1, Casa Courret, walk 2). Plaza San Martin was constructed in 1921, as was a new financial centre, to house the prosperous banks and insurance companies (walk 2). Around Lima the hacienda lands were being urbanized, with mock Tudor, art deco and neo-colonial as the dominant styles (Barranco, walk 9, Miraflores, walk 8, San Isidro walk 7).

The second World War wasn´t bad for Lima either. New architects were promoting a modern way of building (Jesus Maria, walk 6, downtown, walk 2). But Lima had been an island of privilege for too long, the rest of the country wanted a better life as well. The Agrarian Reform of 1968, terrorism and natural disasters led to the influx of millions of migrants, changing the fabric of the city forever. All the flat agricultural lands around the city and the villages became urbanized, many as shanty towns.

Some very nice examples of totalitarian brutalist architecture from the 70-ies can be found in San Borja; Pentagonito, Museo de la Nación. The 80-ies and the 90-ies were not good decades for architecture; there was no money, so buildings are in every sense poorly executed.

In the last decade some shanty towns have become more affluent (Los Olivos,walk 10), and in the richer suburbs on some occasions modern architecture with a distinct Peruvian touch is being built again (San Isidro, walk 7, Barranco, walk 9). Examples of stunning modern beach houses can be found in the resorts south of Lima.