As the modern era of architecture approached, the balconies of Lima were being destroyed. Old homes in the center of the city were torn down to make way for new and modern buildings. In the 1950s and 1960s, Bruno Roselli, an art professor at the University of San Marcos, recognized the historic and visual value of these beautiful balconies located in the historical center of Lima. These balconies were built during the latter part of the Colonial and first part of the Republican eras in Peru.
In an effort to save these works of art, Roselli contracted workers to remove the balconies before the houses’ demolotion and he placed them in a warehouse on the Rimac for storage. They saved more than forty balconies when in a cruel act of fate destroyed the all. The warehouse and its contents burned to the ground. All of Roselli’s hard work was lost.
Decades later, Alberto Andrade, mayor of Lima from 1996-2002, started a process to save the balconies once again. He called it the Adopt a Balcony program, which turned out to be fairly successful with businesses, private donors, and other countries donating enough money to save, restore, or rebuild over 100 of the balconies. In this program an artist named Graciella Laffi adopted one of the balconies and had it restored in honor of Professor Roselli’s attempt at saving them.
Some of the most beautiful and well preserved balconies are:
The long, stately balcony on the Casa Del Odior built in the middle of the 16th century is found just off of the Plaza de Armas in Central Lima. This house acted as a place where people could come and lodge their complaints to El Odior, the listener. It was built shortly after the founding of the city and is one of the oldest houses in the city.
The magnificent balconies of the Casa de Osambela are visually stimulating with their intricate carvings and tooled woodwork. Built at the end of the 18th century it is one of the few historical homes in Lima with more than two floors. It’s rumored the original owner built the third and fourth floors in the center of the home so that he could watch his ships come into the port of Callao.
The beautifully detailed arches of the balconies on the Casa Riva Agüero also built in the late 18th century are stunning examples of the Republican architecture during this time period. The home was donated to Católica University by the family, which explains why it’s still in such good condition.
The Moorish style balconies of the 18th-century Palacio de Torre Tagle are incredible; the workmanship is truly amazing. The detailed geometric carvings – built so ladies of the era could look out on the street without being seen by some passersby and called the Jealousy Balconies – must have taken months to create.
The carvings of the balconies on the Archbishop’s Palace on the Plaza de Armas are so stunning that they will stop you in your tracks. The beautiful wood and intricate carvings were designed after those on the Palacio de Torre Tagle.
The simple yet elegant balconies of Casa Grau, home to Peru’s most beloved war hero, are worth a stop. You can step onto one of the balconies which makes for a great photo opportunity. There is a two-sol admission fee into the home where much of the original furnishings can still be seen.
These are only a few of the many that have been saved, preserved or rebuilt and I understand that the process to preserve them has moved into the district of Rimac also. A walking tour of the historical center of Lima will take you past numerous examples of these splendid structures. Most are attached to homes or businesses with no discernable name. That does not detract from their beauty or the enjoyment of seeing these national treasures. You will also see some close to ruin and others in the process of being destroyed.
As time passes, despite great efforts by the city’s government, Lima is still losing some of its balconies and the homes they are attached to due to time, neglect and modernization. There seems never to be enough money to save everything. Progress and modernization march on in their inevitable fashion. It is sad and regrettable to see a people’s history being destroyed. Yet, we always have hope that enough will be saved to awe visitors and keep the historical center of Lima a place of beauty and culture that Limeñians will be proud of.