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Architecture of Costa Rica

Costa Rican Architecture - Cartago
Cartago

The earliest architecture from Costa Rica was made of wood and has not lasted to the present day, although along the coasts some people still build wooden stilt houses. The region is fairly mountainous, volcanic, and bordered by water so the indigenous people lived there in small numbers. Of the few people that lived here, their houses and other structures have rarely lasted over time. Only the archeological sight of Guayabo, which is only home to stone foundations, has survived.

With the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s the Spanish architecture was introduced the region and numerous Spanish-styled buildings were built, most noticeably in the regions of Liberia, Heredia, and the towns of Cartago and Barva.

The Spanish buildings varied; many churches were built in the styles popular in Europe and Spain when they were built, leaving a strong legacy of Baroque influenced buildings in Central America. This is best seen in the Basilica of Nuestra Senora de los Angeles. The houses though were fairly different in style as they more closely matched Spanish or Mediterranean houses. These are best seen in Barva, which is littered with 1600s and 1700s Spanish houses.

The 1800s received a number of large coffee plantation mansions and a few Neo-Classical buildings. These mansions are found in the hills of the country as they dot the mountainous landscape. The Neo-Classical buildings though are limited to the larger cities. The Teatro Nacional (1897) in San Jose is perhaps the best example of this style in Costa Rica.

In more recent times the architecture has been more reflective of modern technology and materials, especially in the capital of San Jose, which is home to most of the country's modern and post-modern architecture. In fact San Jose is home to nearly every architectural movement in the 1900s and 2000s as it hosts everything from Art Deco buildings and modern structures.

This page was last updated: March, 2013