Cathedral of Leon, Nicaragua. Unesco World Heritage Site

COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE

León is very rich in Spanish colonial architecture. The town has more than a dozen original colonial churches and an enormous cathedral. The cathedral was appointed in 2011 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As was customary in city designs from the 16th and 17th century, the cathedral is the heart of town, and is fronted by a central park (plaza central). Streets radiate in grid formation from this center.

'Colonial architecture' is a general term that can be applied to houses and buildings that are built completely from adobe, as well as those constructions consisting of heavy framing via wooden columns capable of supporting the large roofs overlaid with roman clay tiles. Also included within this style are some very unique constructions built using the Taquezal technique. In this type of construction the walls are not quite as wide as those of pure adobe and are therefore reinforced with wooden framing.

DEFINING CARACTERISTICS

A typical characteristic of this architecture style is that the houses have one ore more double doors (portones) in the (usually quite spacious) front room (sala) which faces the street. From the sala, you enter one ore more corredores, (a rough translation might be 'hallways', but in fact, they are open spaces under roof, supported by wooden columns; what we might more correctly call 'breezeways' in English).

The corredores run around the central garden (patio) on one, two, three or four sides, and can be wider or narrower, depending on whether there are rooms built. The defining feature then of a classic colonial home is that it consists of high roofs angling down to a square or rectangular central garden, with a minimal number of divisions. The result is lots of open, airy space and a strong emphasis on connection with the central garden. The wind and airflow are free to move through the entire construction, providing welcome natural cooling in this tropical environment.

Sometimes there is a second garden at the rear of the house (traspatio), accessible through a high double door (portón). The Marcoleta property features a lovely example of a traspatio.

PROTECTION OF ARCHITECTURE

Over time many of these beautiful houses have been neglected. Maintenance is not always highly prioritized by owners, either due to cost or lack of awareness of its importance. You may have discovered already yourself that in many cases, when Spanish colonials are 'renovated', the work is done with inferior modern materials or concepts that denigrate their original design integrity. Often they are demolished altogether.
Still, León’s building stock is primarily made up of Spanish colonial houses, whether you’ll find a motorcycle shop or a family of eight living in the exact same basic structure. That is why we use the words 'house', 'building', and 'property' interchangeably on these pages when describing the three properties.

Unfortunately, the traditional way of doing construction with adobe has all but disappeared and is now completely replaced by constructing with concrete, steel roof beams, and corrugated steel roofs. The modern way is faster, much less expensive, and requires little to no maintenance. In some cases, it can actually look nice. But the result is not a true Spanish colonial. Only a very small number of locals are familiar with the techniques and materials involved in this vanishing architectural style. More could be said about the negative effects of all this modernization but perhaps it’s enough to simply state that the protection of this historical architecture is urgent.

By buying and maintaining colonial real estate, you are contributing to the conservation of a remarkable piece of history - that just so happens to be truly, originally, beautiful in its own right.

» Go to Casa Marcoleta

» Go to Casa La Rosita

» Go to Casa Amarilla

For other colonial real estate possibilities, consider Aurora Realty - León