City of Quito, the Capital of Ecuador

QuitoQuito, the Capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850m.

The city was hit by earthquake in 1917, but despite that, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America.

The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’, which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.

The city has an outstanding universal value isolated in the Andes at 2,818m altitude. It is spread along the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano and is bordered by the hills of Panecillo and Ichimbia.

Founded by the Spanish in 1534, on the ruins of an Inca city, Quito proudly possesses one of the most extensive and best-preserved historic centers of Spanish America.

The city offers a remarkable example of the Baroque School of Quito (Escuela Quitena), that brings together the indigenous and European artistic traditions and is renowned for providing the greatest contribution of Spanish America to universal art.

The height of this art is represented by veritable spiritual citadels, among which the principal ones are San Francisco, San Domingo, San Augustin, La Compana, La Merced, the Sanctuary of Guapulco and the Recoleta of San Diego.

These are recognised not only for their artistic value from the architectural viewpoint but also for their decorative elements (altarpieces, paintings, sculptures).

The city of Quito forms a harmonious ensemble where nature and man are brought together to create a unique and transcendental work.  The colonizers knew how to adapt their artistic sensibility to the reality that surrounded them, building their architecture in a very complex topographical environment.

Despite this, architects were able to confer stylistic and volumetric harmony to the ensemble and urban routes are based on the original plan and include central and secondary squares as well as checkerboard-patterned streets and are aligned on the cardinal points of the compass.

In the city centre, there are convents and churches as well as down and story houses with one or several patios, usually built with earthen bricks and covered with stucco, combining the monumental with the simple and austere.

The city of Quito, the cradle of Pre-Colombian cultures and an important witness of Spanish colonisation maintains, for the time being unity and harmony in its urban structure despite centuries of urban development.

Quito was elevated to the title of capital by the audience, it assumed the political direction and patronal control over the villages and towns.

This is the maximum representation of the step towards forming socio-economic development, creator of a true national idiosyncrasy expressed through its unique tangible and intangible heritage.

The great majority of attributes upon, which the Outstanding Universal Value of the City of Quito is based are present and intact.

The Historic Centre of Quito has conserved its original configuration and new constructions being built outside of the colonial centre.

Based on the first plan of Quito, designed in 1734 by Dionisio Alcedoy Herrera, the original plan of the streets, the blocks of houses and squares – with a few rare exceptions was the same and can be seen today.
Despite numerous earthquakes that have affected it over the course of history, the city conserves the least modified historic centre of all Latin America because of the concerted action of the Municipal authorities of the Metropolitan District of Quito and the Ecuadorean government.


The Urban plan in general and its integration into the landscape may be considered as entirely authentic because the original generic form has remained unaltered and the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) has developed organically with very few changes.

The preservation of traditional trades, the contributions of craftsmen holders of ancient know-how and the use of local materials (stone, lime, mud and wood) make it possible to maintain the significant characteristics of the different architectonic components and their decorative elements.

Protection and management requirements

The legal domain aspects relating to the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage are considered in the Constitution of the State, in the Law and Regulations for Cultural Heritage, in the Code of Territorial Organization, Autonomy and Decentralization and in the Law on Culture which is awaiting approval.

The management tools available to the Municipality of the Metropolitan District of Quito are the Territorial Urban Development Plan, the special plan for the Historic Centre of Quito and annual operational plans.

These management tools are planned by the Territorial and Housing Secretariat, while their implementation is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Municipality through the Secretariat of Culture of the Municipality, the Metropolitan Institute of Culture, the Administration Zone Centre, the Municipal Development Enterprise and the Commission for Historic Zones, which is the legislator body for the Historic Centre of Quito.

The measures developed to counterbalance the threats and risks affecting the site are covered by the Territorial Urban Development Plan and the Special Plan for the Historic Centre of Quito.

The boundary of permitted construction zones and the control of illegal constructions on the slopes of Pichincha Volcano aim to lessen the risks for the historic centre and its population.

The revision of the transport system and traffic in the Metropolitan District of Quito has led to the introduction of measures to lessen the negative impacts on the historic centre: restriction of the number of public transport lines; installation of a programme of pedestrian streets and bicycle corridors, creation of parking areas in strategic parts of the historic centre.

The importance of measures such as the control of use and activities within the historic centre, the revitalization of public areas that, in 2003, greatly contributed to the conservation of the site and the improvement of the quality of life of its inhabitants, must also be emphasized.

By Amadu Kamil Sana

Source: GNA

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