A house for a museum, a museum for a house
La Casa del Alabado is one of the oldest buildings in Quito’s Historic Center. The date its construction first began is unclear, but it is presumed to have occurred toward the end of the sixteenth century. The residents of the zone—now the San Roque neighborhood—already knew the Casa del Alabado by that name in 1671, when in a renovation on a stone beam of the façade the following inscription was engraved: “Sanctified be the Holy Sacrament. This doorway was finished on 1 July of the year 1671.” The document authorizing reconstruction—in the name of Captain Diego Miño de Paz y Paredes—is one of the city’s first architectural documents.
The property was inhabited by various owners through the centuries. In its early years, it was the residence of wealthy families and then, in the twentieth century, became a rental property with shops and temporary storage. Some of its former tenants and neighbors still visit the museum.
The inscription on the door beam is just one of many traces. The house bears the imprints of its changes, and although it is one of the most notable examples of the Colonial period in Quito, it displays distinct architectural styles that spill out beyond typological patterns.
The vaulted half-dome entry of the main patio, for example, reveals its Moorish heritage of Arab-Andalusian architecture. Similarly, the house exhibits details from other times, like the beam over the original entryway, which is between 1,350 and 1,450 years old, according to carbon-14 analysis.
Renovation was an extraordinary process that called for an alliance of ancestral techniques and materials with modern construction technology. The results are evident in the natural expression of the materials, the manifestation of the hand of artisans, and the asymmetry and lack of uniformity in the surfaces.
La Casa del Alabado now stands among these shifting architectural styles since the Colonial era to safeguard the pre-Columbian heritage of the nation. It is a space in which stories, times, and places cohabitate. This house is a journey.
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